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Bewitching Book Tours Magazine Issue 22 April 2014

Bewitching Book Tours Magazine is a publication of Bewitching Book Tours and Bewitching Books. Editor: Roxanne Rhoads Design Editor and Layout: Lisa McGeen Contributors include Bewitching Book Tours Authors and Tour Hosts learn more at Ad space rates are: $40 full page ad $20 half page ad $10 quarter page ad You can subscribe to this magazine at Š Copyright 2014 Stock images from

Contents Wilde Riders Feature Dumah’s Demons Feature The Lost and Broken Realm Feature Suzanne Johnson Feature Syphon’s Song Feature Green Living Tips Renae Mason Feature Monthly Feature: Nightmare Ink Reconquest Feature Lovely, Dark And Deep Feature Rising Shadow Feature Revelation Feature Naughty Nook Stephan Morsk Feature HE Feature Cover Reveal Pinup Files Photography

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Excerpt The drive into New Jersey is exhausting. My only saving grace is that most of the traffic is going into the city instead of out of the city like I am. You’ve got to love those bridge and tunnel guys. I wouldn’t date one but I have a little bit of respect for them. The commute into Manhattan turns a nine hour work day into an eleven hour one, if you’re lucky. I can feel my stomach start to knot as I get further away from the city and further away from civilization. Pretty soon I’ll be in the sticks surrounded by woods and farmland. I can almost smell the manure that will no doubt take days to completely rid from my nasal passages. I pray that I don’t run into any animals, especially cows, which are huge, smelly and completely freak me out. The only live animals I ever care to see have to fit comfortably in a handbag, like a Chihuahua or Teacup Poodle, for example. I have an appointment with a man named Jake Wilde. He asked me to come early, before the place opens at noon, so he could give me his full attention. I try to imagine what someone named Jake Wilde would look like and all I can come up with is an old gunslinger like Clint Eastwood in Unforgiven. As I pull into Old Town the place looks exactly like I thought it would. The buildings in the town square are old and I image the place hasn’t changed much in the last hundred years or so. Haymakers is just past the town square, down the hill from the deli, next to the gas station. Those were the exact directions I was given, in those words. I take that to mean the town only has one gas station and one deli.

When I pull into the parking lot, there’s only one other vehicle sitting there. It’s an old beat-up Dodge Ram. Nothing like fitting the country bumpkin stereotype like a glove. I have a brief moment of panic and wonder if it’s safe to park my BMW in the dirt lot. Then I remind myself where I am. Who is going to mess with it in the middle of the day? A stray deer from the woods out back? The only thing I probably have to worry about is it getting dusty. I take in a deep breath. I have to be thankful there’s no manure smell yet. The quicker you do this, I remind myself, the quicker you can get back to the lovely asphalt jungle you call home. I’m hit with a gust of wind as soon as I get out of my car. How is it possible that Old Town is even windier than lower Manhattan? I didn’t think I’d ever find a place windier than Wall Street. Even the Windy City didn’t seem this windy when I had business in Chicago. When I enter the bar, I try to smooth down my thick hair, which I know is probably a complete mess from the gust. I’m surprised by the homey feel of the place. How could someone like me possibly feel at home in a country bar? Even if I was wearing jeans and cowboy boots, if I even owned jeans and cowboy boots, I wouldn’t fit in at a place like this. I hear someone clear his throat and I turn to see a guy about my age, mid-twenties, standing next to me. I can’t help my surprise when I see he’s wearing khakis and a polo shirt, like he just stepped off of a golf course. He looks as out of place in this country bar as I feel. “Are you Jake Wilde?” I ask.

The guy gives me the faintest hint of a smile but it’s almost as if it pains him to give that much. His deep brown eyes look even more distressed and I can’t help but wonder what’s behind those sad eyes.

“My brother will be here in a minute or two. He’s just printing a few documents from the computer. Purchase orders and receipts.”

I nod and look around the place. From the outside, I thought it was going to be a dive but the place actually has character. I can tell the wooden bar is old, and it looks hand carved, as do the barstools. There’s a large stage area that looks new. That’s one of the expenses I was charged with investigating. I try to image what the place looks like filled with “Your hair looks fine,” the guy tries to assure me. But patrons watching a local band play on a Friday night. he’s got that hint of a smile on his face again and it makes me wonder if he’s lying just to make me feel “Ms. Smith?” I hear a deeper male voice say. better. I look up to see another guy approaching. He also “I’m Cooper Wilde,” the guy says as he offers a looks around my age, mid-twenties, but he looks hand. more like what I’d expect inside a country bar. He’s wearing a white button down shirt with jeans and I don’t know why I suddenly feel nervous about cowboy boots. His hair is lighter than Cooper’s and shaking it. It’s a business meeting. That’s what peo- his face is rounder, more boyish, but there’s definiteple do. But the way this guy is looking at me gives ly a family resemblance between these two guys. me the feeling that he might be interested in more They’re both about the same height, around six feet, than just business. with athletic builds, like they play sports. He rakes his fingers through his thick dark hair. “A little windy out, isn’t it?” My hand automatically goes to my hair and I try to casually flatten it down again. I imagine I must look like I just stepped out of a wind tunnel.

But I’m not, I remind myself. Not only because I’ve all but sworn off men, I’m here to do a job. I’ve been working for H & C Bank for two years and this is my first solo assignment as a lead investigator. If I continue to do well, I’ll be well on my way to becoming a Vice President before I turn thirty. I don’t need a man to throw me off my career trajectory. And definitely not some guy in a country bar in rural New Jersey. I take his hand and give it a quick shake but I can’t bring my-self to look into his smoldering eyes again. “I’m Riley Smith.” “I figured that,” Cooper says. “Why is that?” That hint of a smile has returned to his face again. “We don’t often get women in business suits in the bar.”

“I’m Jake Wilde,” the lighter haired guy says. I try not to laugh as I look at Jake. He’s young, attractive and nothing like Clint Eastwood in Unforgiven. So much for my speculation about his name. I notice Jake has papers in his hands. “Maybe we should have a seat at one of the tables.” He motions to a table closest to us. “Would you like something to drink?” he asks. Jake has one thing that Cooper doesn’t. An absolutely killer smile. It’s the kind of smile that can probably get any girl into bed in a matter of minutes. Well, any girl except me. I no longer fall for guys with smiles like that. It hurts too much the next morning when they say they’ll call you, and give you that smile, and you know they’re lying and you’ll never hear from them again. “I’ll take some water,” I reply.

I’m not sure why I’m suddenly overcome with the urge to get a real smile out of Cooper Wilde. I don’t know even know the guy but it somehow seems important. I get the feeling he hasn’t really smiled in a while and it’s long overdue. Not that I’ve had much occasion for real smiles myself lately.

Jake actually winks at me before he turns to head towards the bar. The guy knows how to charm people I’ll give him credit for that. I notice Cooper now has the papers in his hand. Without saying anything, he sits down and I follow.

“I think this is everything you’ll need as far as the fraud investigation is concerned. We’ve got purchase orders for all of the improvements as well as receipts for the completed work. You’re sitting at one of the new tables right now. And you can see the new stage from here. I’d be happy to take you up to the new roof, if you’d like to see it.”

“Of course,” Cooper replies. The guy is all business. It’s in sharp contrast to his brother who seems more like a non-stop-party kind of guy. “Did you decide if you want to see the roof?” Cooper asks.

Cooper pushes the stack of papers toward me. I quickly thumb through them. I’ll make a few phone calls when I get back into the city to verify everything and cover my butt. At first glance, though, everything looks clean. It doesn’t seem like a case of fraud, more likely poor bookkeeping.

When Jake laughs, Cooper glares at him.

“The loan hasn’t been paid in months,” I say even though that’s not really my department. I’m here only for the fraud investigation. They’ll be dealing with someone else regarding the default on the loan.

Still grinning, Jake asks, “You’re really going to show her the roof?”

“I know,” Cooper says, and I can see more darkness over-shadow his already dark eyes. “I’m going to try and fix that.” Jake comes back with three bottles of water. “Bottle okay or would you like a glass?” he asks. “Bottle is fine,” I say. Jake sets the bottles down on the table and takes the seat right next to me. I’m a little taken aback by how much space he commands. And not just because of his size. It’s his energy—his being—that’s so large. “So what did I miss?” Jake asks. Cooper eyes his brother and I can see there’s a little bit of animosity between them. Or at least there is on Cooper’s part. Jake seems kind of oblivious to it. Cooper rubs his temple and says, “I was just telling Miss Smith that we’re willing to cooperate with her investigation in any way we can. I’ve given her all of the documents she’ll need.”

“What?” Jake says. “If that’s supposed to be a pick up line, you’ve got a lot of work to do.” “It’s not a pick-up line,” Cooper says through clenched teeth.

“It’s not necessary,” I state. The last place I want to be is in the middle of these two guys’ drama. There’s obviously a lot more going on than just showing me the roof. Jake leans close to me and I catch a whiff of his cologne. It’s a spicy and masculine. “Why don’t you let me show you the new stage we had built?” I can feel the heat radiating from his muscular body and I’m quickly reminded by my body’s reaction that I haven’t had sex in over six months. I gulp. “That’s not necessary.” I can feel several beads of sweat roll down my forehead. I’m getting hot, and it’s not because of the temperature of the room has changed. It’s Jake’s closeness to me. I jump from my chair. “I have everything I need.” I feel like waving the papers in front of my face like a fan but I refrain. I just need to get out of the bar and away from Jake. Then I’ll be fine.

That’s what I tell myself anyway. “Great,” Jake says. He gives me another one of his charming smiles then looks at me like he’s undressing Cooper rises from the table and gives me an odd look. me with his eyes. I wish I could figure out what it would take to make the guy smile but I can’t stay next to Jake a minute longer. I reflexively pull my suit jacket tighter even though I’m He’s like catnip and I’m the cat. I need to escape and revealing nothing. I’m wearing a conservative button- get some fresh air. down banker’s suit but I still feel like Jake can see through it somehow. “Thank you both for your cooperation,” I say. “I’ll look at the papers more closely when I get back to the city. I assume these are copies I can take with me?”

“You’ll let us know if you need anything else?” Cooper asks.

“I will. It was a pleasure meeting you.” I put out my hand for Cooper to shake. This time, when he touches me, I make a point of looking into his eyes. They seem to have gotten even darker and deeper in just the last few minutes and that makes me even more curious about him. Business, I remind myself. You’re here for business and then it’s back to the city.

When I look back at the two brothers, they’re both staring at me. I don’t know why that makes me so nervous. I don’t plan on ever seeing either one of them again. When I’m finally outside, I take in a deep breath of what I think will be fresh air and instead, I’m assaulted by the small of cow manure. Great. Just great.

“It was nice meeting you, too,” Cooper says and once again, he only gives me the hint of a smile.

I hop into my car and turn the air conditioning up as high as it will go. I take in another deep breath and try to get the stench of cow dung out of my nasal When Jake clears his throat, it breaks the moment passages. I can’t believe I’m shaking. I’m not sure if between me and Cooper. I’m embarrassed that I lost it’s because of Cooper or Jake. Maybe it’s a little of control. I’m supposed to be a professional. both. But I’m definitely rattled. I noticed Jake has his hand out and I realize he I just need to get out of Old Town and get back to the wants me to shake it. The last thing I want is to do is city, I tell myself. Then things will get back to normal. touch Jake. I don’t want to get caught up in his charismatic web like a fly. As I put the car into reverse and begin to pull out of my parking space, I keep thinking: I just need to get I give him a ridiculous wave instead and I feel like an out of here and get back to the city. idiot when he frowns. “I’d better get going,” I say as I turn and make my way toward the door.

When I step on the accelerator to go forward, I drive right into an old Chevy pick-up truck that’s headed straight for me.

Wilde Riders Old Town Country Romance Book One Savannah Young Genre: Contemporary Romance Publisher: Short on Time Books Date of Publication: February 11, 2014 ISBN: 1495442977 ASIN: B00IDWDWJ8 Number of pages: 186 pages Word Count: 49,000 Cover Artist: Tony Bryson Amazon Book Description:

FOUR WILDE BROTHERS...ONE WILDE COUNTRY BAND WILDE RIDERS is the first novel in a spicy new contemporary romance series about four sexy brothers, their small-town bar and their local country band. WILDE RIDERS can be read as a STAND ALONE NOVEL or as part of the SERIES. Cooper Wilde spent his entire adolescence counting the days until he could escape rural northwest New Jersey. Now at 26, he can't believe he's coming back. But his late father's bar, Haymakers, is in financial trouble and his older brother, Jake, has asked for Cooper's help. Riley Smith, 25, is fresh out of her Ivy League MBA program and wants to make an impression on her employer, H & C Bank. Her first solo assignment is a fraud investigation on a business loan they made to Haymakers. Even though Old Town is less than 90 minutes from New York City, Riley feels like she's stepped into another world in this remote, one-bar town. Riley can't wait to do her business and get back to the city as quickly as her sports car will take her...until she meets Cooper Wilde. He's not like the other guys in this rural town and Riley feels inexplicably attracted to him.

About the Author: Romance novelist Savannah Young grew up in rural northwest New Jersey in a place very similar to the fictional Old Town, which is featured in her books. When she's not at her computer creating spicy stories, Savannah is traveling to exotic locales or spending time with her husband and their bloodhounds.

Blog: Facebook: SavannahYoungAuthor

Goodreads: show/7814077.Savannah_Young


Interview with Ami Blackwelder What inspired you to become an author? I’ve always written and told stories since I was very young. Do you have a specific writing style? My books are paranormal and sci-fi and tend to be more fun, flirty, choppy, and sometimes break the rules. My books are historical and contemporary are more detailed and more authentic in terms of time periods than many books of historical perspectives. My books are a new line coming September 2014 and focus on thrillers and dystopias. The style tends to be more Hunger Games. Simple, but energetic. How did you come up with the title for your latest book? I needed Dumah in the title since the story was about her. I called it The Demon Life of Dumah. My editor Ashley Egan who actually helped with the title of Mers as well, helped me chop the The from Mers yeilding it as MERs. She also suggested chopping Life of this title and offered an alternative of The Demon, Dumah. I played with shortening the name and came with Dumah’s Demons. Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp? Yes, that life isn’t black and white and sometimes people’s reasons for doing things are complicated and multilayered. Ultimately answers don’t come easy, but we try. This theme is seen in Falling Angels too. We really chip away the first impressions of characters and dive into who they really are as we see the difficult choices they all have to face, some —as with Kian and his sister— more heart wrenching then most. Is the book, characters, or any scenes based on a true life experience, someone you know, or events in your own life? All my work is influenced by my life and travel and personal experiences. I would not say one character is one person for life or one event is one experience, but more of a culmination of things. Is there a genre(s) that you’d like to write that you haven’t tackled yet?

Dystopia and thrillers which I will do with M. Black Of all the characters you’ve ever written, who is your favorite and why? Wow, I love so many of them. I usually love the one I’m writing about currently most. But ultimately I would have to say the first would be Rebecca and Eli from The Day the Flowers Died, because they represent very real people in a very real time —30’s in Munich Germany— that affected a tremendous amount of lives. If this book is part of a series…what is the next book? Any details you can share? YES! Dumah’s Demons is after She Speaks to Angels and prior to Falling Angels which will be out in a couple months. The last book will be Angel Codes. The four are all part of the AngelFire Chronicles, but Dumah’s Demons is the only novella. What book are you reading now? Allegiant by Veronica Roth. What books are in your to read pile? Divergent and Insurgent, LOL. Most Excellent. They get better with each read, unlike most other series’ I’ve read like Hunger Games or Twilight (Sorry fans). What books/authors have influenced your life? I came at writing from a literature perspective and short story perspective, so my early influences were Hemingway, Steinbeck, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Nathaniel Hawthorne. I loved this kind of story telling. Nowadays, my influences range from Veronica Roth and Suzanne Collins to indie authors like Imogen Rose and Amanda Hocking. So where literature meets frivolity is usually where I find myself. Can you share a little of your current work with us? Falling Angels is my current work. I’m just about done. Wow. The characters have gone through so much. We see Ali develop more fully into herself as well as hardships that weigh emotionally on all the characters in ways that sometimes rip them apart from themselves and from each other. I have to say Misha’s music really keeps me in that space —a deathly sad, but yet spiritually uplifting place. Who designed the cover of your latest book? I do my covers, but I have to say Falling Angels was actually done by a fellow writer/designer from KindleBoards whose name escapes me now. Do you have a song or playlist that you think represents this book? YES! For the AngelFire Chronicles, I listen primarily to Misha Mishenko and her soundtrack is used for all the book trailers in the series. In fact, Kian plays her music on the piano in Falling Angels as we learn more about him.

What would your readers be surprised to learn about you? I’ve traveled extensively. I’ve lived in Asia for over six years and have stayed for summer in Spain and China and spent time in Tibet and Cambodia. I’ve also been to Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, Korea. I built up an English program in Thailand over a six year period. I also have my Montessori Education degree as well as my BA in English. Currently, I’m focused on my books. Dumah’s Demons All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced by any means, graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping or by any information storage retrieval system without the written permission of the publisher except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. This is a work of fiction. All of the characters, names, incidents, organizations, and dialogue in this novel are either the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. This e-book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this e-book with another person, please purchase another copy for each person you share it with. If you're reading this book and did not purchase it or it was not purchased for your use only, then you should return it and purchase your own copy. Thanks for respecting the hard work of these authors. Copyright © 2014 by Ami Blackwelder Artwork © 2014 by Eloquent Enrapture Edited by Katherine Pine Summary: The story of Dumah, Kian’s sister and how she becomes a Dark Angel Dumah’s Demons: An accompaniment novella to the AngelFire Chronicles Add it to your Kindle at Amazon free on April 15, 16, and 17 2014 The Dark Night “Where are you Kian?” I shouted as sweat from my attacker slid down his crunched hairy knuckles and over my purpled lips. He punched me one last time before standing. Salty. I heaved, but couldn’t get enough breath to feel alive again. His rusty smell lingered in the air, in my nostrils, on my skin. Hearing the hard clank of his boots pound away from me rang in my ears. He would always be a part of me now. He got inside of me –so deep inside of me that I could never forget his violation. “Kian?” I shivered. Even my brother couldn’t rescue me. I lay alone in the dark, in the alley somewhere in Manhattan, as one eye which hadn’t swollen watched the gang that attacked me meander off into the distance. They disappeared in seconds as if they had never come to me –but they had. Before I fell unconscious I caught a glimpse of Kian twisted on the alley several yards from me. With his back against the street, his arms lay over his head entangled as if they had tried to

grab something before he had been hit. His right leg curled up and over his left. He must have struggled, like me. But he could never understand what I went through, this moment of blood and violence would forever divide us. Blackness. The Morning Light “Dumah, Dumah.” I heard my name and felt my body shake. A dream? Had everything been a bad dream? Awakening, I couldn’t be sure. My arms hugged my knees and my head curved into my chest, but at the sound of my name I released my grip. Then the alley came into view with a bakery door to my left and a brick wall to my right. Kian’s lip had a rip from one end to the other and his left eye bruised blue. Ice crystals formed on his fingernails. A side effect of his power manifesting in his distraught state. “Dumah! Are you okay?” His hazel eyes met with my coal black pupils. I could barely catch my breath. I grabbed my elbow as I felt a drip of something cool brush my skin. A blood drop. “Let me help you.” Kian stretched his palm over my wrist as he helped me balance to my feet. A sharp sting pierced my ribs and my thigh felt sore. I wobbled like a drunk man. I wish I had been drunk, but even alcohol couldn’t erase the last eight hours. My purpled lips quivered as I stumbled out from behind the alley to the busy road. Even at seven in the morning this city could stomp on the best of them. Kian looked so lost, so confused when he stared at me in front of the Fresh-O bakery shop. I could see his mind spinning with what-if scenarios. What if he hadn’t wanted a loaf of pumpernickel at eleven at night? What if he could have broken free from the man who held him away from me? What if he could have used his power? What if he hadn’t been surprised? What if he could have saved me before the large man raped me? Too many what-ifs, not enough action. “Do you want a coffee? I know how you love your carmel latte. I’ll get you one,” Kian said before he vanished inside of the bakery. I heard the bell chime when the door opened, then looked up and caught my reflection in the window. As Kian fumbled with change in his back pocket, I repulsed at the image before me. A slash from the tip to the end of my brow hung over my eye, from the knife blade used. Blood crusted my chin and ear. Blue and purple bruises puffed on a cheek and under one eye. My torn clothes had been stained with dirt, blood, and sweat...the sweat, that rusty, sweaty smell caught my memory like a hook in a fish and brought it all back to me. A sliver of moon dangled in the dark sky as everything around me turned black. Laughter permeated the alley as the local gang Loco took turns hitting or screwing. Hope for Kian shriveled and died a bit each moment until there remained no hope for him to save me at all. He wouldn’t rescue me. No one would be coming. Only blackness choked me now. A push jarred me back to the bakery shop, to today, the day after. Someone bumped me on the sidewalk and when I looked up

I only saw a checkered shirt. Jerk. I wouldn’t become invisible. I screamed. The cacophony hit the walls of the shop, bounced down the street and echoed in the alleys. People stared at me like I had become a monster, but the monster had already been here and left and they all missed him. When Kian jerked his head in my direction I realized the sound came from me. I closed my mouth when Kian handed me the coffee and never spoke to him again. He didn’t ask if I was okay then. He didn’t ask me anything. He knew, like I knew. Nothing would ever be okay again. I sipped the coffee as Kian dabbed a wet napkin to my chin. When the paper towelette became saturated with crimson color he tossed it into the bin next to the shop door and my eyes focused on a sixteen year old guy in a black leather jacket.

better, stronger, as if somehow the night prior could have never happened to girl like me, because she would have never allowed it. I loved the way I felt near him. “Who. Are. You?” The words came out suspended. I could hold them back no longer. I didn’t even realize I had said anything aloud until he answered. “Dameon.” Looking at him from the side, he appeared so regal and made everything seem so possible. A world of possibilities, a world of power is exactly what I needed. “What are you?” My eyes shot him up and down examining him for something hidden deep. A better question would have been: what am I? “You will learn soon enough,” He said with a suspicious grin. Nothing about turning sixteen felt normal to me. The usual The Meet He approached us in record speed without avoiding my eyes pubescence most teens underwent the past years had been tamor veering out of my way. When he reached the bakery door he pered in me by an urge to fly or run off into the wilderness. I smirked, and a wrinkle broke between my brows as a cautious couldn’t decide which feeling dominated me more. I couldn’t smile leered across my face. Something confident, yet mysteri- see why me, a street kid most of my life would care about eious, flowed from his pores like an expensive perfume – ther, but I did. something I wanted to buy to cover up my stink. Then Dameon took me into the backstreet of some dance Kian kept his heavy gaze on the stranger as he interacted club named “The Edge”, where music played most of the day with me. The stranger placed his hand on the hot cup and then and night. I couldn’t understand why at first as the street looked dipped his pinky into the steaming fluid before licking his smol- much like every other, dingy and dangerous with a trash can on dering finger. In a city of people avoiding me, this dangerous each corner, but when he opened a cracking wood door against mess, this man–this stranger–wanted me close. the same brick wall as the nightclub and ducked into a stairwell He leaned into my ear and whispered, “Come with me and leading underground I found my answers. learn why you’re different.” I froze. “...Why you can control the The stairs must have spiraled a block downward, and I wiped Earth with your mind, why you have a restless yearning inside a spiderweb out of my way. “Where are we going?” My eyes of you.” shot around the damp, cold and dark cellar, and when we finally My coal colored pupils shot up at him and he smirked, “I reached the last step I hopped onto a hard floor. “Dameon?” I know who you are, what you are, and I’m here to teach you couldn’t see him at first, until he turned my direction and silvery everything you need to survive. I’ll protect you. You’re too pupils like a sliver of moon haunted me. powerful to ever be a victim in this city of sin.” The words protect and powerful rang in my ears as if no oth- The Mystery er words existed. Nothing mattered more than this power he “It’s alright, Dumah.” spoke of, this power that could keep me safe. He knew what I I froze. “How do you know my name?” could do, how I felt. He must have been something more than “I know a lot about you. I’ve been watching you.” human. Maybe I had been too. I had to find out. “Watching me?” Shivers shot up my arms. Then he took my The stranger turned back toward the direction he came and a hand and said, “come, there is no reason to be afraid. You are red stripe marked the back of his leather jacket. “Come,” he like me, Dumah.” whispered. His fingers signaled me to follow. Like him? I knew I had to be something more than human. I “Where are you going? What did he say?” Kian reacted in always felt a strange energy within me, but what I didn’t panic as my palm met with the stranger‘s shoulder and I moved know... in haste with him down the street. He led me further into the underground of The Edge. At first “You can’t protect me anymore!” My words hit Kian as he when we walked I could hear a sound: thump...thump-thumpfollowed in anxious step behind us for several blocks before a thump-thump, but the farther we walked the less the music bus shooting down a cross street separated him from us. When I pounded until only the sounds of silence remained. looked back I noticed we had taken a side street and Kian had “How am I like you?” Questions raced in my mind, making disappeared. me dizzy. “What are you? What am I?” Just like him to vanish on me. “It is better if I show you.” He walked under a crack of light from the ceiling and the shadows formed around him made him appear bigger than before, but I kept my eyes on his silver dots. The Journey I didn’t know this stranger from anywhere, but somehow I “Look at me, Dumah. Open your eyes and see.” felt like I knew him all along, like we had been taken from the I blinked and then he became something more. Majestic rasame mysterious mold. Funny. He might have answers to my ven black feathers protruded from his sides, wings sprouted and questions and I wanted, no needed, to know him. fluffed up and down as his eyes glowed in what seemed like an Watching him with careful eyes, I didn’t want to miss a endless stream of perfection. thing. He moved so fast. We made it several blocks before I “” I didn’t know quite what to ask as my even blinked... or so I felt. Just being near him I already felt senses tried to make sense of the nonsensical.

He flapped once and the wingspan opened from one side of the cellar room to the other, covering about fifteen feet in total. The thin layer of light from the ceiling spread over him like a twinkling star, not all at once. What I thought had been shadows had been a new form, something I’d never seen before and I trembled. “I’m like you?” “Yes, Dumah. You too will soon grow wings and you too possess a power.” That word again. Every time he spoke it I felt like I had grown stronger. “What kind of power?” “For each of our kind the power is different. In you the gift emerges in the ability to move the woodlands with your mind. This is why you are drawn to the forests.” “And your power?” He lifted his hand upright and his palm began to glow redorange. A blot of energy shot out of him and hit the ceiling, causing a spark and then a small fire until the spark dropped to the floor and died. “I command fire.” I watched the fire become nothing in a half daze, mesmerized. “We have other gifts too, Dumah. Your muscles will soon grow and you will be stronger than when human. You will have the ability to move faster.” I could have easily become drunk on the words stronger, faster, wings, gifts...everything I needed to protect myself, to ensure I would never be attacked again. Then Dameon ushered me forward, his warm palm on my shoulder. “Follow me and I will show you the world. Anything you want will be yours.” The Guardians We walked farther into the darkness of the cellar beneath the club. I had almost forgotten we wandered underground until I heard the music permeating the ceiling again. That incessant thump-thump-thump-thump rung in my ears until Dameon showed me behind a steel door at what seemed to finally be the end of an exhaustively long hall. “Come,” he said as he rolled his finger and I scurried behind him. Behind the door I saw a large and dimly lit room. White bricks arranged in a semi-circle comprised the ceiling. A chandelier made of dark metal and candles hung from the center of the room. More candles sat against the far left and far right walls, while lanterns sat on the hard floor arranged in a straight line on either side of the chandelier. My eyes fixed on a strange shadow in one corner of the room and then, out of the side of my eye, movement in another corner grabbed my attention. I heard the door squeak shut behind me and I jumped. Then Dameon took my hand in his palm. “Everything is fine, Dumah. You are finally home.” Home? The thought of ever having a place I could run to and be safe fled from me long ago somewhere after my first beating at the orphanage and just before I ran away with Kian from our foster family. Dameon spread his elegant wings and I felt the air cut in half and rush over me, a fluttering symphony filled my ears with ease and, somehow, familiarity. He had become the most beautiful being I had ever seen. “You are with family here.” Dameon met with my eyes, his shiny slivers penetrating my heart. He rolled his finger again, signaling for the shadows to come into the light of the candles.

As they moved forward, I felt myself take a deep breath. I barely heard their feet move against the floor, but their shadows made sure advances. As they approached the light, more and more of their shape came into view. First, a tall silhouette, and then strangely feathered creatures with human faces and blue eyes appeared. The grey-black color of their wings expanded throughout the room, filling the empty space with a sense of fullness. Long blonde hair twisted from braids lay over the female’s shoulders and the crimson color of her gown made me feel underdressed. Both carried some kind of object. One female and the other a male. But gender made no difference, because they could have been twins in their identical physical features. “Culsu and Culsan guard the doors to the underworld.” Dameon caressed my neck with his fingers. My vigilant eyes shot up at the male, Culsan, first noticing his long nose and pale skin, then a curious glance shot to the female, Culsu. She hissed and revealed a set of sharp teeth. Dameon brushed his fingers through the back of my hair and said, “but there is no need to fear them as they are here only to protect your home from intruders.” He smiled, but I hesitated to move forward when he walked toward the other door at the opposite end. I never felt more curious and more intoxicated with a need for answers, answers to which I knew he could give, and yet for a moment a memory of Kian flew into my mind and I found myself sitting on the edge of his bed in the orphanage singing our song, something we learned from the nursery: Lullaby and good night, thy mother's delight, Bright angels beside my darling abide. They will guard thee at rest, thou shalt wake on my breast. They will guard thee at rest, thou shalt wake on my breast. In the middle of the last line, I felt a tug on my hand and my mind ripped back to the present. The Power “I know what you need.” Dameon confidently walked over to Culsu and grabbed the wooden staff from her hands.” He twirled the object while he glided back to me as if performing a circus act. “You need to see what you can do here, what I can teach you.” He threw the staff into the air so high the wood hit the ceiling before returning to his hands. “Use your mind. Return this wooden stick to the owner.” I stared at the solid wood in Dameon’s hands and repeated my silent mantra: to Culsu, to Culsu. Frustration hit when five minutes later I still had not moved anything. “I can’t control this stupid gift at will. Always comes when I don’t need it.” I ground my teeth and bit my lip so hard blood drops fell to the floor. “Concentrate,” Dameon almost demanded and wiped the blood from my lip with his pinky before licking his finger. “You must focus with everything. All your powers will come in time.” I tried again, focusing on Culsu and then on the staff and then on Culsu until the staff levitated in Dameon’s closed fist and began to shudder. I closed my eyes and could only see the arrowpointed staff in his hands. That single picture became my life. Shaking up and down in chaotic vibration, the staff finally broke Dameon’s grip and flew out of his hands and into Culsu’s. My eyes popped open and I felt a rush of power surge through me. “Again.” Dameon glared at Culsan and he tossed Dameon his staff. When I felt the soft wood hit my palm I knew I would never be the same. “Fly this to the ceiling. Hit the highest point.”

Dameon’s forefinger pointed at the center of the white bricked surface when his heavy glance fell over me. I wanted to please him, but more than that I wanted to be powerful as he believed I could be and so I focused on the ceiling and then the staff as before, but now in seconds the arrow shaped wood twisted into the air and flung skyward. The wood smashed against the white brick shattering in two and shards fell to the floor. A crooked grin crossed Dameon’s face and his almond pupils sparkled. He engulfed me within his wings and took me into his chest. His heartbeat pounded bumb bumb-bumb bumb, strong like an ox, and his milky perfumed body filled my senses. I closed my eyes for a moment when stubble from his chin brushed my cheek and in his arms I finally felt completely safe. I may not have known what lay behind the next set of doors, but I knew Dameon wanted or perhaps needed me with him, with a need perhaps similar to my own. “Come, come,” he said as if I hadn’t really been approved for secrets until now and, with his arm around my neck and hand gripped tight on my shoulder, he ushered me to the door on the opposite wall. Culsu rushed to the next entrance with a set of large keys jingling in her fitted hands while her form floated like a sail on water. Blonde ringlets disappeared behind me after Dameon squeaked the door open, and when I found myself on the other side the door slammed shut. Darkness broke with slices of light from lanterns on the thick cavern walls. A large oak table with six chairs on either side sat in the middle of the room. Two candles rested on each end of the table. Dameon pulled out a chair and gestured for me to sit.

others? Are there more?” “Yes, Dumah, there are many. We stay hidden underground where we are safest. At night sometimes we emerge.” “For how long has your kind been down here?” “For hundreds of years, but I have only been here for for a short time.” “What do you mean? You have not always been a Dark Angel?” “I lived in Washington. At one, my mother had a car accident and died. Much like with what happened to you, but I had been spared. I lived in foster homes in Washington until sixteen when I left for New York where I soon met my real father.” “Your real father?” “Yes, his name is Azrael. He watched over me in Washington from a distance. In New York he finally revealed himself to me when my powers began to manifest. He told me what I was and brought me here to my home. He rules over our kind in this city. Many cities have a flock. Every flock has a ruler.” “So, he left his flock in Washington?” “They followed him here.” “Powers come at sixteen? This is why I started feeling mine some months ago?” “Yes, and very soon you will feel more. Every day your powers will grow and the more you use them, the stronger they become. But...” I shot him an inquiring eye with a wrinkle in my forehead. “But what?” “But you always have to be careful to never reveal what you are to any human. I told you the human world is dangerous to us and if they ever find out who we are we lose power.” “We lose everything?” Closer He slid in a chair beside me, his soft breath tickling my chil“Not everything, but there are rules to our kind.” ly skin, unique eyes undressing me. When his large hands met “Rules?” My eyes widened. mine over the table I could have blushed if I had been a sweeter “Rule one, if we physically harm a human, we lose ‘Gift kind of girl. Long fingers raked through my dark tresses and our Power’.” eyes followed each others for several minutes before he spoke. “Gift power?” “You are ready to know who we are, who you are Dumah.” “Every Dark Angel has a different gift. Your gift is of ma“Yes, I am.” I bit my lip and a drop of blood from the prior nipulating wood.” My curiosity circled to Culsu and Culsan. wound dripped onto the glossy wood table. “Rule two, if we are intimate with a human, we lose ‘Wing “We are those abandoned by everyone, living underneath Power’. I figured he meant his literal wings would diminish. because we are not a part of the world. We posses powers be“Rule three, if we are discovered by a human, we lose ‘Essence yond what any human can fathom and we do not answer to any- Power’. one.” “What does that mean?” “Tell me. Say it.” A tinge of demand pervaded my tone. “Our essence gives us our overall strength. The more hu“See, there are two kinds of us. The Angelfire and the Dark mans who know of our existence, the less powerful we become. Angels. The Angelfire believe the world is on their side and do The less strength we have. The slower we move.” everything to help the mere mortals. Dark Angels know better. I flinched in the thought of becoming weaker. “Rule four, if We understand the humans are dangerous to us, and only want a leader is discovered by a human, the entire flock loses Esto take what we have.” sence. Rule five, if a leader is killed, the entire flock loses all “But how...when did this power come to us?” power.” “From the beginning of our death. You died that day in the “This is why you live underground. Why Azrael made this a car with your parents when you were just two. Kian died too. home?” The powers beyond fated your death to be too soon and so you “Yes, and why humans are dangerous to us. If they ever and Kian breathed again, but this time as something more.” knew of our existence, not only would we become weaker...they “So, Kian is like me?” His name hung on my tongue like an would hunt us down like animals. They have in the past centuunusual taste I couldn’t be sure I wanted to try again. ries ago. Azrael has all the stories of our ancestors in the sacred “No.” Dameon declared firm. “He doesn’t understand us, books.” I wanted to ask him more about the sacred books, but you, your desires, your needs. He still believes the world is a he continued with the seemingly never ending rule list. place worth saving. You know better. You are better. You are “Rule six, if an Angelfire is dying, he may transpose his one of us.” wings to a human, giving his Essence and Gifts. Rule seven, if a “You keep saying us, but I’ve only ever seen you and two Dark Angel kills humans, forfeiting his Gifts, he will develop

fangs. Rule eight, if a Dark Angel is intimate with humans, forfeiting his Wings, he will develop fur.” “Why the separate rules for seven and eight? Why is seven simply not a part of rule one?” “How intuitive. Yes, the rules would seem to make more sense that way; however, the rules divide the difference between an Angelfire and a Dark Angel. If an Angelfire breaks rule two he simply looses his gifts, but a Dark Angel acquires another ability. See, Dumah, we are the stronger of the angel clans.” I mulled over the rules for a bit. “So, killing a human to regain Essence would be better, even if we lose our gift?” Dameon stood and clarified, “Think of your Essence as your heart, mind and body. The more Essence you have, the stronger overall you are in a fight. Gift power is like an extra power, you don’t need it to live and fight. You must have strong Essence to win however.” His hand slid over my shoulders, “but you haven’t really lost your gift if you’ve traded them for fangs.” He rubbed them. “You want to be a part of our family, don’t you Dumah?” I couldn’t say no now even if I wanted to, I had gone in too deep. But nothing inside of my wanted anything more than what they offered. “Yes.” “Then it is time to meet my father.” I had never been the family type. Years of orphanage beatings hardened any sweetness inside of me and six years on the streets of New York after running away from my latest foster family shaped me into more of a warrior and survivor than any kind of girl a man would want to take home to meet the parents, but Dameon and this underworld gave me some kind of strange opportunity at something I had missed.

draft of air and imagined the hallway stretched farther than where we ended. “My room,” Dameon said proudly and I took a slow step inside a space that glowed dimly in gray neon light. “I will leave you two and see you in the morning,” I heard Azrael say with approval before he disappeared somewhere down the hall.

The Room “Please, come sit.” Dameon hurried to a king sized bed with black velvety covers. I plopped onto the softness of the sheets and leaned backward, my back hitting the wall behind me for rest. I looked up and saw a ceiling mirror. The bright neon of the room contrasted every other space of darkness I had seen in this underground which allowed me to notice an array of books on shelves at the other side of his room. His walls reminded me again of a cavern. “Books.” “Yes, feel free.” His open hand waved toward the collection and I soon found myself caressing each title. “The Great Gatsby”, “To Kill a Mockingbird”, “1984”, “The Catcher in the Rye”, “Animal Farm”. “You have prestigious taste.” “I had to do something to pass the time in my foster homes before coming here. I found the stories to be a necessary escape.” I rested my fingers on his cheek, and then they moved in delicate precision to his chin. He had been like me in more ways than I realized. This stranger, this man, this Dark Angel suffered abandonment as I did, and the careless tossing into one foster home after another. Like me, he faced hardship and dangers on the streets of New York until he began to change and then he had to confront the fear of what that meant to be isolated and different. I leaned into him and my lips found his. The Father When the crimson colored door on the left squeaked open I never knew what people meant when they said they found slowly I knew I would be seeing someone or something I had their other half, but now I did. Everything about being with him never seen before, and surely never again. Red eyes lit the darkmade me feel more whole, more finished, more capable. I couldness behind and around the mysterious shadow. The shape moved n’t imagine going back to the life I had before him. in steady steps away from the door and toward me, each step more into the light of the candle on the table. At first his wrinkled His lips pressed against mine until I felt their wetness and inhands came into view, and then pale skin, followed by flowing vited his body into my space. My breasts felt his chest rise up on white hair. When he stood before me his black wings, crested me and his breath, like a perfume, adorned my skin. Soft stubble with grey along the ends, opened up from behind him and flitted brushed my chin when his lips engulfed my lower lip and then up and down a few times over the table before resting to his my cheeks. sides. Falling onto his bed, we shared most of the night together in “I am Azrael.” His voice sounded like a thousand drums beat each other’s arms. His fingers raked over bruises and tears on my against a cement floor. body, and I kept turning away from the image in the mirror on his I stood. “Dumah.” ceiling. I told him all about the attack, the rapist gang, how Kian “My son is very fond of you.” He glanced at me briefly before abandoned me, and he kissed each injury left on me. Yet hiding spotting Dameon. “Why don’t you show her to our quarters. She my face didn’t keep the agony away, the pain I wanted to forget. will be more comfortable there.” He and I had been made of the same stuff, whatever stuff he When Dameon’s skin glistened I began to understand his dark wanted to call it, and yet when I looked at myself I didn’t see angel expressions. Excitement made his eyes sparkle when I tore anything magical or other worldly. In fact, I didn’t see much of the staff from his hands and hit the ceiling. Happiness made him anything at all. exuded a certain glow. He held my chin with two fingers and turned my eyes to meet Dameon kept his right palm on the nape of my neck as he his. His heart beat thumped against mine. He could see the torguided me forward to the crimson door. Azrael followed closely tured soul syndrome all over my face. behind until the door slammed shut as all doors did in this under“You have to accept your power, your superiority to rule. ground and then he lagged while Dameon walked with me hand We’ve been made to do more. Our parents have been taken away in hand down a corridor made of grey bricks. We passed several from us. Nowhere offered a real home. Humans never really undoors on both sides before Dameon opened a door on the right. derstood you...or me, because we are no longer really human at Darkness in the hall kept me from seeing farther down, but I felt a all.” He caressed my neck with his pinky, “This is your home.

You are one of us now and I’ll never let anyone ever hurt you again.” Morning After When I awoke the next day, I found Dameon missing but a crossbow with wooden arrows lay on the floor next to the bed. The right side of my lips curled up in smile, and I rushed to pick up my present. I pulled the bow back and then released, measuring the firmness of grip, and then I placed an arrow onto the bow string. Everything looked as if carved by hand and I wondered if Dameon had done the carving himself. A note sat on the dresser at the foot of the bed. He said he had to go to school and he’d return later that night and to help myself to any food in the pantry. My eyes ravishingly searched the small room and found nothing resembling a place for food. A bookcase, dresser, and bed made the room pretty snug. A blue door sat between the book cases and soon I found where to shower. Inside the dresser I pulled out a pair of black jeans and a top and then threw on one of his beige sweaters. Lucky for me, I had been smaller than him. I squeaked the door open and walked into the corridor. A shadow lurked at the opposite end. “Someone there?” His drumming voice resounded, “It's me, Azrael.” “Oh, sorry to bother you, but Dameon headed out for the day and I don’t know where the pantry is.” I couldn’t complain really. I had more down here than I ever had up on the streets of New York. Sometimes I had to wash in the Hudson River, and other times I had to wash up in a bathroom in the back of some cafe. “Oh, that boy always forgets the important details. I’ll show you around the place.” His hands felt soft considering he appeared to be mid-sixties. I figured that made him about fifty when Dameon had been born, but I didn’t dare ask about his age or if his wife lived with him. He had a quiet, complicated countenance about him which I couldn’t be sure of just yet. With his hand over mine, he led me back to the crimson door. He pointed into the hall before opening. “The rooms down here are for our other guests. I prefer you leave them alone, except for Dameon’s room.” “Of course.” I blushed a bit with the notion that the guy I had been smooching all night had a father just down the hall. I’d never had to meet the parents before and it all felt a bit foreign to me. Azrael led me past the large table in the center of the room to a black door on the other side. Upon entering I saw a large pantry and sink, counter top and a few knives. “This is where we do our cooking.” “So, Dark Angels sleep, eat?” I must have looked dumbfounded. “We don’t need as much sleep as humans, but yes we do both.” Azrael said plainly and then he opened the pantry for me. “Electricity is difficult to acquire down here so we don’t have a fridge.” He got to the point quick. “You mind if I look around?” I stepped toward the pantry with a growl of my stomach. He gestured with his open hand for me to move forward, and when I opened the pantry I saw shelves of canned beans, vegetables, fruits, and soups. I spied a can opener on the counter top and a bowl near the pantry and then opened a can of peaches.

“I will be back shortly, I have a few things to do this morning.” Azrael turned to head back to the other room, his black tunic swinging with him, “but feel free to take what you need from the tin near the wall here.” He tapped a square tin on the counter near the door. I couldn’t determine if this place felt more regal, mysterious, or just plain creepy, but I finally felt like I belonged somewhere. When Azrael disappeared I looked inside the tin. Rolled up twenty dollar bills. I pushed two into my pocket and then sat to eat. I had the kitchen to myself and too much time to wonder what Dameon did all day. The closest school to this location had been Millennium High. I’d seen the building a few times when surviving on the streets, but I never dared to enroll. Enrolling would mean paperwork and paperwork meant the government would find out I wandered the streets at night homeless. I’d be thrown back into the orphanage or a group home. Neither option suited me, but now I had a reason to go and the morning still felt young. I traced the steps in reverse that I took with Dameon when we descended into the underground. The large table room. The entry room. Culsu and Culsan just watched me leave and used no words. When I hit the dark, long corridor directly under where guests danced at The Edge I realized the hall hadn’t been as dark as I first experienced upon entering. I could see the walls more clearly. Stone. The chills that rushed up my body yesterday disappeared. In fact, I felt comfortably warm. Then I wondered if my new found powers and identity had something to do with this strange contentment. Dameon said I’d have more strength, more speed. Perhaps this surge of angelic energy allowed me to see and feel better too. When I took my first steps in the back alley of The Edge I remembered why I longed to crawl into the cavern Dameon provided. The raunchy smells reminded me of the large man who attacked me. His fist slamming against my cheek. His careless laughter. I cringed and then took another step forward and then another until I found myself on the main road. I kept my mind on Dameon, on the power he taught me I had, the power I needed. I walked to the high school, but sometimes my feet felt like they glided along the sidewalk. When I got inside, the halls flooded with kids and any fear I once had on the streets vanished. I stopped at the corner where I saw him leaning against his locker in a black leather jacket and black jeans. The red stripe on his jacket always gave him away, but he didn’t care. He liked to be noticed. Then my attention focused on her. A girl about seventeen with dark brown hair and sea blue eyes. Her clothing ensemble reminded me of a poster from The Gap. Casual, but her parents obviously cared. She smiled at Dameon and her eyes sparkled. When he returned the smile I felt a tinge of heat burn up my sides. I wanted to slap the girl-next-door. The Streets I spun around on the ball of my heel and bolted out the school's front doors to head for the cafe down the block. Seemed to be one at every corner in this city and I needed to fume. My mind, like a vulture, circled around the images of Dameon and that girl. The way he leaned close into her, his cocky smile. Oh, he’d hear me roar when he got home. For now I sipped my latte.

I had more important matters to contend with now. I needed to find out where the rapist gang hung out in Manhattan. I would have my revenge and with my bow and arrow and control of the Earthly powers I knew this vengeance would be sweet. Stopping in at the local police station, a man behind the desk asked what I needed. “I had an incident with the rapist gang… Loco they call themselves, and wanted to file a report.” “What kind of incident?” A quirked brow met with my stark glare. “The bad kind.” “Alright, I’ll send you back. See Officer Samuel Maney.” He pointed to the door on the left and I knocked. When the officer opened the door I smelled someone familiar, I couldn’t place it, but something about him bugged me. An athletic build, trimmed hair and brown eyes turned to sit at his desk. “Please, have a seat.” I quickly sat and examined the room. I needed information. “I’m told you had an encounter with the local gang.” “Yes.” I kept my eyes low, my voice soft. I didn’t really want to talk about what happened. “You wanted to file a report?” “Yes.” “How do you know this attack was the gang Loco?” “I recognized the tats. A cobra with a sword in its mouth inked into his wrists.” I’m sure he sensed my unease with this discussion and stopped probing after he handed me a paper. “Just fill this out and return to me.” “Do you have a pen?” “Of course.” He placed the pen on his desk and then stood. “I have to talk to one of my guys. I’ll be right back.” When I heard his boots exit the room I saw my chance. I dove behind his computer and typed in the name Loco. Immediately a page of information popped onto the screen. I skimmed and made a mental note of any addresses and locations. I walked back to The Edge with a low head, not because I felt like a monster as I had after the attack, but because I didn’t want any distraction to trip the information out of my head. I repeated what I found on the computer like a mantra. Incident at Hudson River. Incident at Fresh-O Bakery. Incident at Hudson River again. Incident at Muvrico Theaters (across from the Fresh-O bakery). I knew if I wanted to meet my attackers I would have to return to the crime or the Hudson River. I mulled over that thought as I returned to the underground.

“Well, I took a stroll to the school this morning.” “Ah, you did. How’d you like it?” “Such a joy. Odd thing, when I got to the school I saw you.” “And you didn’t say hi?” Dameon dropped his school bag to the floor and his eyes turned to me. When he reached the foot of the bed I asked. “And I saw you flirting with that girl, you know the one near your locker. Who is she?” My lashes batted at twice their normal speed. Dameon laughed, his chuckle hitting the bed with him when he plopped next to me. “Flirting huh? Is that what you call it?” “Well, wouldn’t you?” I couldn’t be sure if this is how jealousy felt. I hadn't felt anything like it before, but I’m sure if that word fit any kind of emotion this one would be it. He stroked my hair. “Dumah, listen to me. I have to keep that girl close. She is a curious one and we don’t need any more problems in our plans.” “So, you don’t like her?” I pushed his hand away. “No, but I need to keep my eyes on her.” My legs rolled toward me and the tension in my forehead broke to a softness. “Why? And what plans are you talking about? I thought I was a part of your team, your family. How come you didn’t tell me anything?” Dameon stood and wiped the dust from one of his books. “Remember I told you about the dangers humans bring to our kind.” I nodded. “Well, this human named Tommy Bachelor followed me one day and saw me transform into the Dark Angel. He knows what I am. He knows we exist and because of him I have lost some of my Essence, some of my strength. That girl, the one you saw near my locker, is a lot like Tommy. She always has her nose in my business. I need to keep watch to stop her from discovering who I am.” My eyes widened and I couldn’t turn my head from him as his flipped through the pages of a book, telling me everything. He captivated me. “I’m going to have take my Essence back.” “How are you going to do that?” “With your help. You are going to come to school with me and we are going to confront Tommy.” I clenched my jaw, “I have to take care of something first.” My mind swirled back to my own pain. “You mean your attackers.” “I mean the monsters.” “You know you’ll lose some of your gift for every human you kill.” “I know.” Silence hung for a few seconds before I heard his voice again. Underground When I heard Dameon’s voice down the hall from his bed“I’ll help you, Dumah. I’ll help you find your justice. But then room hours later, all my attention focused on him. you promise you will help me take my Essence back?” “Home late, son.” “Yes.” “Had to keep my eyes on that guy.” I remember being hungry on the streets of New York and sit“Don’t do all the work son, that is what your flock is for.” ting curled up behind a dumpster. An old man with dirty wrinkles “I won’t, but he is getting too close. We have to make a move and a paper bag wrapped around him like a shirt handed me a soon.” muffin. I promised him a hot bowl of soup one day. A week later His bedroom door cracked open and I tried to keep cool, my I stumbled upon a wallet on the sidewalk and spent days hunting legs stretched over his bed and my facial expressions easy. After down the old man to keep my promise. Treated to a bowl of a smile I asked, “So, how was your day?” I wanted to sound casu- chicken soup he died the next day, but I never forgot him. al, but I’m sure I sounded suspicious. “Dumah?” Dameon tapped my shoulder. I drew back to the “Fine, yours?” present and saw an open book over my lap. The casual and cool approach didn’t get to the point fast “What is it?” enough...I needed answers. “This holds all our secrets and powers. For centuries we’ve

been writing them down in this black book. Learn about your gifts, your strengths and then use your powers Dumah. That is the only way your power will grow.” My fingers played with the wooden carvings on the sides of the book and my eyes caressed the words like a painter's brush to a canvas. Then I placed the book to my side. “Later. Now we have somewhere to be.”

rusty stench that would never come off of me. My hands wrapped around the man underneath me, my fingernails dug into his neck. Maybe he screamed, maybe he fought back, but I don’t remember. All I could see was that man, that monster getting away from me. Then, my legs moved faster than they ever had before as cold night air rushed over my skin, until every inch of space between me and the monster disappeared, and my legs jumped around his waist like an acrobat. My hands clawed the man’s The Night The night felt different because I no longer cowered to sur- back and my body weight pushed him to the grassy terrain. vived, I had become one with the night and one with myself. No I never knew I had such strength. more conflict with where I should be or who I was. I knew. Then I moved as if in slow motion. The look on his face perHere. Now. With Dameon. manently stained my mind. That rusty smell diluted by the wet I would do what I needed to do to survive. I had no alleof grass. The cobra-sword tattoo colored by the dirt as his wrists giance to the humans and I owed them nothing. If God had curs- dug into the ground. My legs squeezed over his sides. My hands ed me, I would return the favor. clasped the back of his head and pushed his face into the moist We raced down the sidewalk past the Fresh-O Bakery. soil. Dameon knew everything that happened in the city. He didn’t He struggled left and right to find air, but my grip wouldn’t need the information I found on Samuel’s computer to know give him relief. One single thought occupied my mind, the one where to find Loco, but I told him anyway. He headed straight where my life went black. He deserved worse, but his death for the Hudson and his loyalty more than made up for Kian’s would be enough. As his kicking slowed, I felt another strange abandonment. surge jolt through my body, but this time of vindication. When Four poorly clad men drank beers and tossed cans into the he stilled completely, Dameon stood at my side. river while a fifth larger and dirtier man laughed at the sight of a I rose with my hand in his and nothing felt softer. I looked cat flicking around a lizard. Along with the cobra-sword tathim in the eye. “I’m ready to take back your Essence now.” tooed across each of their wrists, the closer I got the more pun- There would be no going back. I always kept my promises. gent the rusty smell of that night came over me. “The time will come.” Dameon opened his jacket and pulled out my bow and arrow set as we approached. He handed me the weapon with a wink The Broken and I couldn’t decide if the wink meant “I got your back” or “I Somehow weeks flew by after the killing of the Loco gang. brought this especially for you.” I licked my teeth and rubbed over a set of fangs that had sproutI had to admit, I couldn’t wait to see how well my arrows ed over night. I kept the sharpened teeth at bay, hidden, by rewould fly. tracting them. Some people say it is difficult to take any life. After I threw the dark bag on my back, I wrapped the leather Some people argue that ridding the world of bad people is a strap over my chest. Before any of the men saw us coming, I favor to us all. I didn’t feel either, because I didn’t have remorse readied one arrow and shot. The whistling pace of the arrow for what I’d done and I didn’t do this for anyone but me. I only took seconds until the wooden sharpened point hit his heart. The felt a sense of personal justice. Maybe a sick kind of justice? target fell to his knees, holding his bleeding chest as his three Some would definitely agree. friends regained some kind of sense and watched in horror. I felt more alive, more strong, and more free. Perhaps the The next arrow flew with the force of my mind. From the Dark Angel inside had finally been unleashed. bow to the targeted body, I focused on each movement. With all For weeks I slept with Dameon and awoke to him missing. eyes still on the dying man, the second arrow hit without notice. He’d run off to Millennium High to keep watch on Tommy When two men squirmed on the grass with an arrow sticking Bachelor and that curious girl Ali Maney. Dameon had a bad from their chest, the other two finally spotted us and backed feeling about her, but I sensed Dameon hadn’t given me the full toward the Hudson. For each step they took backward, we took story, because I still didn’t understand why Dameon with all his at least three forward until we stood face to face. powers bothered to attend high school anyway. “What the hell are you doing?” One of the men screamed, I filled my days with books from his library. The under“What do you want?” His voice trembled. I could only smirk. I ground remained pretty empty and boring and I wanted to learn jumped onto the man when Dameon’s black wings sprouted. as much as I could about his world. I found the sacred books “What the hell are you!” The other man shouted as a sliver of with gold embossment and read into the night about the history moonlight danced over the crest of the wings. Suddenly, of Dark Angels, sometimes neglecting my cuddle time with Dameon had the man pinned to the ground and with one quick Dameon. jerk Dameon broke his neck. I felt a surge of anger jolt through my body as my fists Pages filled with war between humankind and our kind. pounded into the rough texture of the man’s chest. I didn’t real- Many millennia ago our kind mixed with humans, but our offize I had been screaming until I looked up and saw the face of spring produced such powerful and destructive beings that the the last man standing. Gray eyes sat on me in recognition as his rest of mankind determined to destroy us and our mixed offlarge frame turned and his form grew farther from me. spring. War ensued until Dark Angels fled into hiding. Farther and farther. I heard a soft knock on Dameon’s door. Dropping the sacred I couldn’t let him get away. His face came to memory. He book, I carefully opened the door and peaked through the crack. had been the one who first pinned me to the cold street. That “Yes?”

The drumming voice of Azrael answered, “I wanted to make sure you were doing fine.” He walked into the room. His black tunic reminded me of something I’d seen on stage once when I snuck in to see a play. Soft feet padded across the floor and met with me. “I’m fine.” I inched my way to the bed and plopped to the sheets. “Good, because I know Dameon has been away a lot and we didn’t want you to feel lonely.” I raised the sacred book. “I keep busy.” “Good, the stories will help you to understand our predicaments.” “They have. I see now why the humans pose such a threat to us. It’s in their blood from their ancestors to kill us.” “Yes, though we once tried to live in peace and mix with them, we did not succeed. Humans could not concede that we had been born as rightful rulers over them and they feared our powers. We have been at war since.” “But what I don’t understand…” My mouth shut as I searched for the right words. Azrael rolled his shoulders back and stood beside me, “is why Dameon bothers to mingle with humans now? Why does he go to school and risk being discovered?” He sat next to me and placed a hand on my shoulder, just like Dameon had always done. “Because Dumah, our power lies in having subjects. As our histories show you when we tried to take our rightful place and even mix with the humans, they rebelled against us. So, we must now lead the humans unknowingly to where they belong.” My eyes widened and my fingers curled, latching onto the sheets as he continued. “The more Dark Angels who follow us, the more humans we can bring into our bidding…the more power our kind has.” The word power sat on my mind again like a vibrating sound I couldn’t shake. “We are building an army in Manhattan so that our family will never be weak again.” “How?” “By drawing humans into our will,” his breath brushed over my face, “and by inviting more Dark Angels into our fold, and by turning many Dark Angels into Were and Fanged beings.” I remembered Dameon using those words, fangs and fur. “You mean rules seven and eight.” He nodded. “Yes, we will create them from Dark Angels in the city.” “There are more? Dameon spoke of your flock in Washington, but I’ve never seen anyone but Culsu, Culsan, you and Dameon.” “Ah yes, my flock. They are loyal to the death. They keep vigil in the city most of the time, influencing humans and finding more Dark Angels. There are many more, hidden in the city, waiting to be found. Some young and some old, but all of them needing our home.” “So, your flock doesn’t come here?” “They do, but usually you are asleep. They have rooms in the halls.” By halls, he must have meant tunnels. The halls underground felt more like holes dug inside of a cave. Azrael left as softly as he arrived, his steps barely made a sound. After my shower, I tiptoed around the hall starting at Dameon’s door. I knew what came before, a few more doors and then the big room with a table followed by the kitchen and entrance. What had been further down the corridor?

I couldn’t see much, even with my improved vision. The underground kept most light from ever finding its way down here. A few lanterns hung on hooks screwed into the cave walls. The further I walked the more doors to unknown rooms appeared. I must have walked several blocks and the hall kept winding. Based on what Azrael said, who knew how many Dark Angels lived here with me. When a gust of air pressed over my body I felt a chill and stopped frozen in my tracks. I retreated with backward steps as my eyes stayed fixated ahead. Something down there moved. When it stepped into a crack of light I saw a hideous monster of gray-black fur with enlarged teeth protruding from its mouth. I jerked around and hurried back to Dameon’s room. I didn’t want to get in trouble for venturing too far. When Dameon returned, the wall clock had just struck six. Late again. “Where have you been?” I didn’t want to wine or nag, but I couldn’t help myself. “School and then I followed Tommy.” He threw his backpack on the floor. “He knows about us and he is going to tell his friends and family.” “Well, while you are galavanting about, I’m cooped up all day in here.” Chills rushed up my spine when I thought of the monster lurking in the halls. He took a few steps toward me and tilted his head. “Then let us end this tomorrow. I’ll take my Essence and leave Millennium High and be here with you.” “Okay.” I always kept my promises. Millennium HighAt school I stayed in the background. No one knew me, and the more invisible I became the better. Tommy had already figured out Dameon’s game and we didn’t want him spying me. I watched at the corner as Dameon fiddled with his locker and crookedly smiled at that obnoxious girl Ali. Subtle flirtations or not, Ali drew dangerously close to my territory with an obvious grin at my boyfriend. My fangs sprouted and I bit my lip at the sight of her. Turning my head to the wall, I hid my face while retracting them and dotted the blood on my mouth with my pinky. Dameon played the whole thing cool as if he’d done this a million times. Maybe he had? I knew nothing of his life in Washington really. When I saw the signal, where Dameon scratched his head, I followed. Dameon latched onto a tall, lanky kid who passed by and pulled him behind a side door. We climbed the stairs. “What are you doing?” Tommy looked at Dameon with trembling hands. He glanced at me, “Who are you?” Dameon didn’t say a word but I felt his mind muddle with colliding shades of anger. Anger that he had been discovered. Anger that he lost Essence. Anger that he now had to do this, because more than anything Dameon hated to lose power and by killing Tommy he would lose some of his gift as I had. Not all of the gift, but enough to feel weaker. As Dameon pushed Tommy up the stairs, his face turned pale white. I held his arm with a tight grip. When we reached the top stair Dameon turned to me saying, “Use your gift and tear open the door.” As I focused my attention on the wood, Dameon’s hand brightened red. A ball of fire hit around the knob and lock, weakening the hold. The door shook violently as my mind pushed and pulled, and Dameon hit his fist through the door near the bolt. After he pulled the lock off the door, I swung the door open and

we walked onto the roof. Dameon looked at his watch. “I have one minute. I can’t be late to class and raise suspicions.” I dragged a screaming Tommy to the roof. “What the hell are you,” he repeated from quivering lips. The gravel felt crunchy and the air cold as the sun hid behind a dark cloud and Tommy’s grave expression deepened. Dameon slid his palm over Tommy’s mouth as Tommy kicked and bit. We dragged him a few feet more until we stood near the rooftop’s end, then Dameon’s watch beeped. “Have to go.” Dameon glided to the door in seconds and vanished. I stood with Tommy pinned in my arms, alone. He kicked, and his heel knocked my shin as gravel rustled beneath us. I owed this to Dameon, to my new family. They took me in and protected me and made me strong. Nothing would ever hurt me again. They needed their Essence, their power. I needed it. I pushed his body over the edge. So easy with my newfound strength, like blowing a feather in the wind. A quick flash of Kian came to mind at that moment, only his face, but enough to make me wonder about him and then I let go. I let go of Kian and Tommy. He fell and I turned to walk away with only sounds of screams echoing in my ears.

that girl. “Father said we’ll be celebrating. Classes have been canceled in light of recent events.” “Good.” I backed up against the frame of the bed as Dameon pulled off his shirt. He played his pinky over my cheek. Raven eyes held my attentions as he unbuttoned my shirt. Dark chest hairs tickled my skin. His other hand found the nape of my neck and I stared at his pink lips before mine locked onto his. Moist saliva wet my mouth as my leg straddled him. I fell back onto the bed and Dameon breathed heavily with each kiss over me. By morning I found myself entangled with his body like two snakes entwined. I loved being close to him, his milky scent. Cheering in the hall brought Dameon to his feet. “Time to go.” I hurriedly dressed myself in jeans and a dark shirt. I left my bow and arrow at the foot of the bed after all, we had a celebration to go to, not a battle. Walking with Dameon to the main room, we met with a group of Dark Angels. “Where’d the others go?” “You mean the Were and Fanged?” Dameon clarified. “Yeah.” “They can’t come to the top with us, they are too noticeable.” “But you and I are fanged now too.” “Not fully. We haven’t killed as many and so our gift is still The Graduation I watched the school react in horror. An announcement. An alive though weaker, and our fangs are still retractable. You’ve ambulance. The police. A familiar face appeared at the scene seen the Fanged with long teeth?” I nodded. “Well, they can’t and his name tag read Samuel Maney. Then it clicked. The po- retract the fangs and their skin is more pale. The Weres have no lice officer whose computer I rummaged was related to that way of hiding the fur.” obnoxious girl Ali. That is why his smell was so familiar. “Yeah, one of them freaked me out earlier.” Through the glass window I could see Dameon in his seat in “When?” Dameon’s brows quirked and he looked concerned. English class, period one. He sat in the back and that girl sat in “He didn’t hurt you?” the front. The class gossiped while others sat paralyzed by the “No, nothing like that, but he did give me a scare. My fault, I events. Dameon winked at me and then I disappeared. shouldn’t have wandered so far anyhow.” When I returned to the underground I didn’t want to come “Yes, the corridors are full of many surprises and if you are back up to the surface anytime soon. Dameon had been right, I not prepared you might be shocked.” felt even stronger now. Tommy’s death meant we had more “Well, I’m not anymore.” power. Dameon’s Essence, our Essence, had been returned. “Good, then we can go to the surface?” Something else had changed too. I no longer lived alone. The “Sure.” I preferred to stay nestled in bed with Dameon all corridors flooded with cacophonous chat and after passing day underground, but I’d never been to a graduation before and through the entrance and into the main room I saw each chair I wanted to see how the Dark Angels rocked it. around the table filled with guests. Some with glorious black At the surface a group of us clad in typical jeans, shirts and wings, others with fangs like me and still some had fangs much jackets followed Dameon. He led us to a local diner where we longer. The far right had two furred creatures who must have sat like normal people and ordered burgers, fries, shakes and been the Weres. But in that room, among the monsters I didn’t cheesecake. Then we caught a movie. feel afraid anymore. By evening we found ourselves in a nearby park with bottles “Come, come, sit.” Azrael gestured with his hand to the of beer and wine. I swear I saw an angel fly overhead, but then empty seat. “We’ve been waiting for you. Dameon will return the vision vanished. Maybe I had been buzzed. I lay on my back earlier today and we will have a celebration, a graduation of and watched the twinkling stars with Dameon beside me. His sorts.” body always felt warm, maybe from the heat of fire within him Roast chicken, peas, carrots, mashed potatoes, and cranberry or maybe he just had a warmer temperature than me. juice passed around the table. Nothing smelled better. My stomA few days passed like this, like peace. Just being with ach growled, because I had forgotten to eat breakfast. I filled Dameon, just being. my plate and ravished the food. “A graduation?” Demon Born “Yes,” Azrael answered, “for you are now officially our famThe school returned from recess and Dameon packed his ily.” backpack with his kindle and other necessities. I glared at him When Dameon returned after school pride beamed on his as he packed, unsure of whether his word to be here with me face when he looked at me. He cracked his door open and I after taking his Essence meant anything. rushed into his chest as his solid arms wrapped around me. I “I’ll just be in school Monday. I need to check up on that never wanted to let go of him, and now he could finally be all girl.” mine. I no longer had to share him with the high school, with “Why?”

“I already told you, she is too curious. She knows too much. I have to see what I can do. “When will you be back?” I begged. He held my lower cheeks in his palm, “After first period. I need to say hi and make plans for this Saturday.” “Why do you need to see her Saturday?” Something burned inside of me. A cryptic smile crossed him. “To plan her death.” Dameon disappeared and I stood alone with the words. Words that fell like a sheet of paper back and forth to the floor. Like a pendulum, the plan could go either way. I flipped through the pages of the black books. I wanted to know more about my gifts and powers. How much gift did I lose? Why hadn’t I grown my wings yet? Page ten talked about the gift of moving wood. I’d seen the page before, but wanted new information. After flipping a few pages I read about my strength levels. Evidently, I could move forests in one swoop if I practiced, but not now, not after killing. My gift diminished to possessing control over wood the size of my body, nothing bigger. I feverishly searched the black books, but didn’t find any answers for my final question. When Dameon returned earlier I sighed in relief. I’d been eating in the main room at the table. Perhaps everything would be fine. Maybe she didn’t know anything. Losing Essence to her or more Gift would not sit easy with him. He already lost Gift when he killed one of the Loco for me. “What happened?” “She’s putting the pieces together and she’ll figure out what happened soon.” His face twisted in agony. “Her Mom might not let me come over and I have to protect you, us. I’ll have to show my face again to make sure she lets me come by Saturday.” “But this means you’ll leave again?” I stomped my foot, and my lips twisted. “Friday. I’ll talk with her Friday. This will give us till Thurs-

day for each other.” “Why does this girl keep taking you away from me?” I pounded my foot at the rhetorical question. Logically I knew why, but emotionally I didn’t want to justify the countless times he must have been late because of her or busy flirting at his locker and in class because of her, or now gone again because of her. “She won’t be for much longer…but there is something else I need to tell you.” His face grew serious and my fingers gripped around the back of the chair. “What?” “Kian…the brother you told me about…is back; he has his AngelFire powers and wings.” My fingers squeezed the wood, my mind swirled in disbelief. “He will stop at nothing to protect that precious little Ali of his.” The table shook in anger until the wooden furnishing flew up into the air and hit the ceiling, landing split and upside down between Dameon and me. If Ali didn’t die Dameon would never fully be mine. His time would still be divided between me and that high school. All the images of Dameon and me together, maybe even raising a family, blackened in my mind…and Kian was to blame. The pendulum no longer fell in our favor. The table burst and shards of wood splintered into the cavern’s walls. Thunder outside cracked and rain poured. A burning sensation fueled my anger and rose out of me pushing and pushing until dark wings slowly emerged onto the surface of my back. THE END Please read the AngelFire Chronciles: She Speaks to Angels, Falling Angels, and Angel Codes to find out what happens!

Dumah’s Demon’s AngelFire Chronicles Ami Blackwelder Genre: YA Paranormal Thriller Publisher: Eloquent Enraptures Publishing Date of Publication: March 1st, 2014 ASIN: B00IR60GKS Number of pages: 40 on kindle Word Count: 12, 260 Cover Artist: Ami Blackwelder Book Description: Dumah ran away from the orphanage with her brother Kian, but what they found on the streets separated them forever.

Follow the life of Dumah and find out the motivation behind Dameon's advancements for Ali Maney. This is an accompaniment novella to She Speaks to Angels and Falling Angels, and Angel Codes from the AngelFire Chronicles Free for the Kindle April 15, 16, 17 at Amazon Book Trailer: About the Author: Ami Blackwelder is a Paranormal and SciFi author. Her stories range from Tween & YA to Adult. Growing up in Florida, she graduated UCF and in 1997 received her BA in English and additional teaching credentials. Then she packed her bags and travelled overseas to teach in Thailand, Nepal, Tibet, China and Korea. She has always loved writing and wrote poems and short stores since childhood; however, her novels began when she was in Thailand in her thirties. Having won the Best Fiction Award from the University of Central Florida (Yes, The Blair Witch Project University), her short fiction From Joy We Come, Unto Joy We Return was published in the on campus literary magazine: Cypress Dome and remains to this day in University libraries around the USA. Later, she achieved the semi-finals in a Laurel Hemingway contest and published a few poems in the Thailand’s Expat magazine, and an article in the Thailand’s People newspaper. Additionally, she has published poetry in the Korea’s AIM magazine, the American Poetic Monthly magazine and Twisted Dreams Magazine.

Excerpt from Chapter 16: The expansive cave was filled with statues. Gabriel was immediately reminded of the terracotta army in China, row after row of warriors guarding the tombs of ancient Chinese emperors, but these weren’t warriors. They weren’t distinctly Chinese, either. They were cyclopean; that was the first thing Gabriel noticed. Rather than two equally distanced eyes, each statue had one large eye right above the nose. Unlike those Chinese statues, these weren’t uniform, either. Different bodies, faces, attire, genders, and ages of Cyclops made up the horde of stone figures. Dread began to creep back up Gabriel’s spine as he saw something they all had in common other than their lack of depth perception: every carved face was locked eternally in an expression of fear. Stout warriors crouched, hiding their faces. Women with horrified looks stood guarding their children. Gabriel wondered what foul mind could have sculpted such horrors over and over again. “What is this?” Gabriel asked in a hush, frightened voice. “I don’t know. I’ve never even heard of this place,” Anansi responded. For the first time since Gabriel had met the manticore, he heard and felt doubt and fear coming from the creature. Zhiyan kept staring at the ground, impassive, as Finkle Prime led him along. “Who is here?” said a voice from the darkness. It sounded like a young woman, with a bright, luscious voice. Something was amiss with it, though Gabriel couldn’t figure out exactly what. “Who is that?” Gabriel asked Anansi. “I asked you first, mortal,” The voice said playfully. Gabriel realized what was wrong. The ‘s’ sounds were extended, like Cobra Commander in G.I. Joe, or like a snake using a human voice. Gabriel couldn’t figure out where it was coming from. It wasn’t in his head. He’d heard enough telepathy to know the difference, but this woman’s voice seemed to bounce and echo around the cave and off the statues that filled it. “Gabriel. My name is Gabriel. Who are you?” He asked, trying to keep his voice steady. “Gabriel. So kind of you to visit. No one comes to visit anymore. Zhiyan, he keeps them from me. Now here he is, marching to his death, how fitting,” She said happily. “Prime, halt,” Gabriel said. The big clockwork man stopped and Gabriel saw Zhiyan with his head still bowed, but his eyes were closed tightly and a small smile crept over his face. “Oh, shit,” Anansi said, suddenly angry. “Zhiyan, if we live through this, I hope the council draws and quarters your giant ass.” “What is it?” Gabriel asked nervously.

“Ptolema. Eldest and most vicious of the Gorgon sisters,” Zhiyan finally said, still holding his eyes closed tightly and smiling wryly. “Gorgons? Monsters like Medusa?” Gabriel asked, half in disbelief, half in growing panic. His mind raced. He tried to think of Medusa’s sisters, but the monster didn’t give him time to remember them. “What do you know of my sister? She was no monster. She was a sweet, innocent girl. Raped and then villainized. No, she was no monster,” Ptolema said, her voice smooth as silk. “Don’t look her in the eyes!” Anansi suddenly screamed telepathically. He almost didn’t say it in time. “I am the monster,” She said, her voice dripping with venom. Out of the corner of his eye, Gabriel saw a woman come out of the shadows and into view. One moment later, and he would have looked at her squarely. Instead, he looked several feet to the side of her, taking in her form using his peripheral vision. She was tall as a man, a bit taller than Gabriel from what he could tell, and she wore a ragged red dress that came almost to the ground. Rather than legs, Gabriel saw a mass of writhing snakes skimming along the ground. She tried to dart directly into Gabriel’s view, faster than he expected, but he dropped his eyes fully to the ground. Her arms gleamed a brilliant, shining gold color, and reflected light from Prime’s shoulder lamps all around the cave. Gabriel wondered if her hair was made of venomous snakes like the stories told, but he didn’t chance looking up near her face. “Why do you look away, Gabriel? Why do you not meet my gaze? Am I not beautiful?” Ptolema asked, almost pouting. “No thanks. I’d rather not turn to stone today,” Gabriel said, his voice shaking. He remembered the stories of Medusa, how she turned men to stone with her gaze, and how Perseus destroyed her with a mirrored shield. “There are worse ways to die,” Ptolema said, all the playfulness, seduction, and beauty suddenly gone from her voice. She was deadly serious. And then she was moving. She was fast, so much faster than Gabriel could have imagined. He leapt out of her way, but only just in time. He felt the wind move past him and smelled her, a waft of rotting flesh and dry snakeskin. Gabriel scrabbled along the cave floor to get away from the horrifying woman. Tiny snake heads snapped at the air behind his heels. He looked all around for something, anything to fight with, to hide behind, anything. “Oh, get up, little man. Die on your feet,” Ptolema balked, and then laughed at him, but only briefly. A massive shadow suddenly came over Gabriel, blocking out the light from Prime’s lamps. Fearful of looking up, he looked around and saw a massive paw, like one belonging to a lion that was three times larger than it should have been. A deafening roar filled his ears and Gabriel crawled out from under the creature, seemingly unnoticed. It was almost a giant lion, except it had two equally huge red feathered wings and the tail of a scorpion, its stinger poised to strike some thirty feet up in the air. The Lost and Broken Realm Things Forgotten Book 1 Chris M. Arnone Genre: Contemporary Fantasy ISBN: 9780991397907 ISBN: 9781311266194

ASIN: B00HEOMU6M Number of pages: 325 print approx 299 ebook Word Count: 103,000 Cover Artist: Cassandra Whitney Smashwords, Amazon, Barnes & Noble Book Description:

Gabriel Drake had royally fouled up his life. Before his wife died, he was wealthy, respected, and loved. He pissed away the small fortune he and his wife built, drove away his friends, alienated his family, and even took a few precarious steps on the wrong side of the law. He lost his way. The world had forgotten the man he was, and then a head-on collision between his Jeep and a tree changed everything. Death would have been easier. Instead, he’s woken up in a strange place where all the lost and forgotten things and people of our world go to rest. The laws of physics seem to be driven more by magic than logic. Cats fly and talk into his mind. He’s in a place where real power has been trampled under the foot of a maniacal emperor, and Gabriel alone has the power to free these forgotten people from the emperor’s iron grip. Which will Gabriel save: these lost and broken people, or his own shattered life?

About the Author: Chris grew up in Independence, MO. He attended college at Truman State University where he pursued his loves of theater, music, and the written word. Now, he makes his home in Kansas City, MO with his wife Christy and their four cats. Aside from writing feverishly, he is an avid supporter of the Kansas City burlesque, performance, and arts communities. He is an occasional emcee, outspoken supporter of LGBTQ equality, and King of the Nerds. No, you didn't vote for him; that's why he's king, not president.







DANGER: CURVES AHEAD Suzanne Johnson Note: “Danger: Curves Ahead” is an original short-short set in the world of the Sentinels of New Orleans series, featuring wizard DJ Jaco, her partner (and maybe more) shapeshifting enforcer Alex Warin, loupgarou enforcer Jake Warin, the undead 19th-century French pirate Jean Lafitte, Cajun merman Rene Delachaise, and a cast of many—few of them actually human.

Alex Warin balked at the soggy parking lot of Elmwood Center, frowning at the strip mall in front of him and ignoring a gaggle of elderly, white-haired women in yoga pants, t-shirts, and bright red hats tottering past to get out of the rain. “This wasn’t part of the deal.” The sign on the door in front of us read “Curves for Women.” I tried to stifle a grin from deep inside the hood of my yellow rain slicker. I’m sure the gloat shone through, however, as I grabbed his wrist and tugged him toward the door. “I won the bet. You broke down and drank a beer before I even had a whiff of chocolate. That means I pick the gym.”

Damn straight. Like that monstrous Hershey bar on my coffee table had arrived via pixie courier. I pushed open the Curves door, pulling him behind me like a six-foot-three toddler with a case of the Terrible Twos. He shook water out of his hair to annoy me, but I was having too much fun at the idea of Mr. Macho doing Zumba with members of the Senior Red Hat Society of Greater New Orleans. I’d called ahead to make sure they’d let him in, and knew for a fact that the group, whose minimum age was sixty-five, met for rigorous senior-adult buttshaking every Tuesday morning.

When we reached the front counter, I released Alex’s wrist and gave him a warning glare not to bolt. I had Eight solid days of rain had turned our jogging path in my elven staff, Charlie, inside my rain slicker. Not New Orleans’ Audubon Park into a mud-filled trench that zapping him in a room full of crimson-hatted maworthy of WWE pit wrestling. This was our compro- trons would be worth all the trouble it would cause. mise. My Green Congress wizarding skills could handle it with the memory-erasure charms I had in my bag, but “DJ, I know you put that six-pack of Turbo Dog in my I hated to be brought up on human-elder-abuse chargrefrigerator.” Alex’s deep baritone developed a some- es with the Elders. what canine whine. “You play dirty.” I dragged my unwilling victim to the front desk. “I’m

DJ Jaco—I talked to you earlier about my friend Alex and I coming in for a workout this morning?” “Okay, everyone, let’s line up and do some Zumba!” Nikki took her place at the front of the group, and The perky brunette behind the counter looked past me they all shuffled into two neat rows, with Alex at the at said friend, and I swear she purred. “I’m sure the end. I swear the woman next to him, every bit of fiveladies won’t mind if he joins them.” She added as an foot-two and eighty if she was a day, pinched his ass, afterthought, “and you too, of course.” and he laughed. “Of course.” I glanced over my shoulder at Alex, who’d straightened his shoulders and assumed his I’m -hot-sex-on-two-legs-and-I-know-it expression. It involved a slow smile and a sultry gaze from eyes the color of the uneaten candy bar that had gone from the coffee table to my purse as soon as I was sure he’d taken the beer bait. The man was shameless. Nikki, as the brunette’s name tag identified her, elbowed past me and slid a hand through Alex’s conveniently crooked arm. “C’mon, hon. Your friend said you were shy but we ladies won’t bite.” The purr returned. “Well, not much.” Alex looked over his shoulder and gave me a smirk I recognized too well. He had a plan. If it involved shedding clothes and shifting into his pony-sized dog form, I didn’t care what elders got abused. He was getting zapped. Suddenly, I realized my appetite for exercise had been replaced by my taste for chocolate. Keeping my rain slicker on in case I needed quick access to the staff, I dug the chocolate bar out of my bag and leaned against the counter.

If I even admired it too long, he’d tell me to stop leering. Talk about a double standard. “I think Alex should stand up front with you, Nikki!” shouted the Pincher. “He’ll inspire us to work harder!” Ha. He’d never do it. He’d turn Neanderthal on them, growl a few times, and we could get out of here. I’d even admit it was a stupid idea. “Sure thing.” He swaggered to the head of the class and gave me a long, pointed look before grasping the bottom of his black t-shirt and pulling it over his head. “Need to get out of this wet shirt, though.” Every woman in the room sighed. Except me. I took an enormous bite of chocolate and chewed like a goat. At least until the deafening sound of Latin music began, followed by various degrees of hip swiveling. At least half the Red Hats were avidly watching one particular set of hips in black jogging pants. Not me. I jerked my hood back up, stomped unnoticed out the door, and sloshed through the parking lot toward Burger King. There was a chocolate shake with my name on it.

Alex had been surrounded by at least a half-dozen Copyright 2013 Suzanne Johnson. May not be rewomen in hats that ranged from ruby-red straw with printed or shared without written permission of the fake daisies around the brim to a burgundy felt fedora author. with rain-bedraggled feathers sagging in its band. Supernatural New Orleans: A Few Theories Suzanne Johnson Long before Anne Rice established New Orleans as a haven for world-weary vampires, my adopted hometown had been a hotbed of supernatural activity and legend. When I began writing my Sentinels of New Orleans series, which began with the onslaught of Hurricane Katrina, it was a given that NOLA would be my setting. Even without the hurricane, however, it’s hard to go wrong setting a paranormal story here. I don’t know if there has ever been a study of the most popular setting for paranormal fiction, but I’d be shocked if New Orleans wasn’t No. 1 in the U.S., perhaps the world.

Why? I came up with four reasons the Crescent City (called this due to the crescent shape of the Mississippi River as it winds through the metro area) is such a paranormal hub. In no particular order.... 1. Age. It’s no Rome or Paris or London, but by U.S. standards, New Orleans is a very old city, founded by Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville, in 1718. What’s more unusual, it has retained much of its original architecture thanks to a total miscalculation by military leaders during the Civil War. The city was the largest in the South, a major port that controlled the Mississippi River, and the economic hub of the Confederacy. But the military leaders put most of the defense around the northern perimeter and left the river itself defended only by three small forts. The Union ships sailed right on in and took control of the city early. So unlike Atlanta and other Southern cities, New Orleans was not burned to the ground. In fact, the city itself saw no fighting at all. As a result, the French Quarter is still intact and its crumbling buildings might have been repaired a bazillion times over the centuries, but they retain the flavor of the original French colony and, later, Spanish outpost. It’s the most European of American cities, and it’s hard not to walk a deserted side street late at night and not feel the ghosts of the past around you. 2. Population. As a port city, New Orleans has always been peopled by a large array of nationalities. French and Spanish colonists were there early, as well as Italians who worked the docks and Irishmen the wharves. There was also a very large population of free people of color in New Orleans, many of whom arrived from the French colonies of the West Indies. Most prominent among them were those from what today is Haiti and the Dominican Republic. They came to New Orleans to start a new life, in one of the only Southern ports where they were legally allowed to own land and businesses, and brought with them voudou, their version of the African belief system. New Orleans and “voodoo” became linked, and its mysticism gave rise to many legends and traditions. Today, the voodoo shops and museums are mostly tourist traps, but in the parishes outside the city, and some of the back rooms within it, it’s still practiced. 3. Violence. In the last decade, New Orleans has pretty much reigned as the per-capita murder capital of the U.S. It’s nothing new, however. In the early 1800s, when the privateer/pirate Jean Lafitte ruled his kingdom of a thousand ruffians and sailors just south of the city, New Orleans had already established a reputation for violence. My own theory is that the city’s violence has stemmed from the unholy trinity of population, weather, and poverty. Lots of nationalities means a lot of clashing ideals and beliefs. Port cities tend to violence, as ships’ crews and dockworkers let off steam, usually fueled by plenty of alcohol. Where people die violently, spirits linger. New Orleans’ violent history has contributed to its generally being considered the most haunted city in the U.S. (And for you Sentinels fans, the ghost of Jean Lafitte himself, no stranger to violence, is believed by many to haunt the Lafitte Blacksmith Shop Bar on lower Bourbon Street.) 4. Geography. There’s a joie de vivre in South Louisiana unlike any I’ve encountered in my moves to different parts of the country, and I attribute it to the fact that there’s a fragility to living there. I mean, if you live in a bowl-shaped city below sea level, in the direct path of Gulf hurricanes, and protected by a shaky levee system, there’s a “party hard because it all might be gone tomorrow” attitude that keeps the city feeling more like a Caribbean outpost than a captain of American industry. Even before things like levee systems were invented—and before the advent of air conditioning—half the city’s population could die of mosquito-borne yellow fever on any given summer. Folk superstitions and urban legends stemming from this “here today-gone tomorrow” attitude are widespread. Add the surrounding swampland, fog on the river thick enough to drown in, the abundance of massive live oaks and Spanish moss, and the world’s largest population of alligators, and

you add an extra creep factor where the paranormal thrives. Have you been to New Orleans? What do you think most evokes the paranormal there? (I haven’t even mentioned the above-ground cemeteries!) 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

age violent history/international influence of port weather and geography Haitian influence Live hard/die unexpectedly city that care forgot/

Elysian Fields Sentinels of New Orleans Series Book Three Suzanne Johnson Genre: Urban Fantasy Publisher: Tor Books Date of Publication: August 13, 2013 ISBN: 978-0765333193 ASIN: B00CQY7TOI

Book Description:

The mer feud has been settled, but life in South Louisiana still has more twists and turns than the muddy Mississippi. New Orleanians are under attack from a copycat killer mimicking the crimes of a 1918 serial murderer known as the Axeman of New Orleans. Thanks to a tip from the undead pirate Jean Lafitte, DJ Jaco knows the attacks aren't random--an unknown necromancer has resurrected the original Axeman of New Orleans, and his ultimate target is a certain blonde wizard. Namely, DJ. Fighting off an undead serial killer as troubles pile up around her isn't easy. Jake Warin's loup-garou nature is spiraling downward, enigmatic neighbor Quince Randolph is acting weirder than ever, the Elders are insisting on lessons in elven magic from the world's most annoying wizard, and former partner Alex Warin just turned up on DJ's to-do list. Not to mention big maneuvers are afoot in the halls of preternatural power. Suddenly, moving to the Beyond as Jean Lafitte's pirate wench? It could be DJ's best option.

River Road Sentinels of New Orleans Book Two Suzanne Johnson Genre: Urban Fantasy Publisher: Tor Books ISBN: 978-0765327802 ASIN: B00842H5VI Book Description: Hurricane Katrina is long gone, but the preternatural storm rages on in New Orleans. New species from the Beyond moved into Louisiana after the hurricane destroyed the borders between worlds, and it falls to wizard sentinel Drusilla Jaco and her partner, Alex Warin, to keep the preternaturals peaceful and the humans unaware. But a war is brewing between two clans of Cajun merpeople in Plaquemines Parish, and down in the swamp, DJ learns, there’s more stirring than angry mermen and the threat of a were-gator. Wizards are dying, and something—or someone—from the Beyond is poisoning the waters of the mighty Mississippi, threatening the humans who live and work along the river. DJ and Alex must figure out what unearthly source is contaminating the water and who—or what—is killing the wizards. Is it a malcontented merman, the naughty nymph, or some other critter altogether? After all, DJ’s undead suitor, the pirate Jean Lafitte, knows his way around a body or two. It’s anything but smooth sailing on the bayou as the Sentinels of New Orleans series continues Royal Street Sentinels of New Orleans Book One Suzanne Johnson Genre: Urban Fantasy

Publisher: Tor Books ISBN: 978-0765327796 ASIN: B006OM459U Book Description: As the junior wizard sentinel for New Orleans, Drusilla Jaco's job involves a lot more potionmixing and pixie-retrieval than sniffing out supernatural bad guys like rogue vampires and lethal were-creatures. DJ's boss and mentor, Gerald St. Simon, is the wizard tasked with protecting the city from anyone or anything that might slip over from the preternatural beyond. Then Hurricane Katrina hammers New Orleans' fragile levees, unleashing more than just dangerous flood waters. While winds howled and Lake Pontchartrain surged, the borders between the modern city and the Otherworld crumbled. Now the undead and the restless are roaming the Big Easy, and a serial killer with ties to voodoo is murdering soldiers sent to help the city recover. To make it worse, Gerald St. Simon has gone missing, the wizards' Elders have assigned a grenade-toting assassin as DJ's new partner, and undead pirate Jean Lafitte wants to make her walk his plank. The search for Gerry and the killer turns personal when DJ learns the hard way that loyalty requires sacrifice, allies come from the unlikeliest places, and duty mixed with love creates one bitter roux. About the Author: On Aug. 28, 2005, Suzanne Johnson loaded two dogs, a cat, a friend, and her mom into a car and fled New Orleans in the hours before Hurricane Katrina made landfall. Four years later, she began weaving her experiences and love for her city into the Sentinels of New Orleans urban fantasy series, beginning with Royal Street (2012), continuing with River Road (2012), and now with Elysian Fields (August 2013). She grew up in rural Alabama, halfway between the Bear Bryant Museum and Elvis’ birthplace, and lived in New Orleans for fifteen years—which means she has a highly refined sense of the absurd and an ingrained love of SEC football and fried gator on a stick. As Susannah Sandlin, she writes the best-selling Penton Vampire Legacy paranormal romance series and the recent standalone, Storm Force. Website and Blog Twitter Facebook Facebook Fan Page Goodreads

Excerpt: Bronte faced the senator. “I’m here to ask for your help.” “Help with what, Bronte?” The gruff, hoarse words came from behind her, accompanied by a flood of vibes. She wouldn’t have recognized his voice except for that energy pouring into her. She wrenched around in her seat to see the lion prowl out of the shadows. His gaze targeted her like she was prey that might escape. “Tell us how we can help you. And then you can explain why you ran away from me.” Her mind recorded him like a pencil scratching away at paper to save his image—his dark hair clipped short, eyebrows that formed stark lines with a skeptical bent near their ends. A crease pulled between his brows that hadn’t been there before. His rugged face had weathered storms his brother had avoided. Those storms had chiseled away any softness. She closed her eyes, stopping the mental sketching—a necessity to save her sanity. She turned her whole body back toward the senator and only opened her eyes when she knew Vincent wasn’t in her line of sight. “Vin!” Happy surprise colored every note of the senator’s voice. “How long have you been standing back there? Your energy is so subdued I didn’t even sense you until now.” “I didn’t either.” Edmund’s voice was equally surprised. “Miss Casteel, your beauty has distracted us.” Bronte fought to keep her calm mask intact. Her heart boomed like the senator’s voice and threatened to shake that mask right off her face. She couldn’t let that happen. Diplomatic words and composure were her only weapons in this battle, a quick escape her only viable strategy. She stood, one move closer to getting to the door. At her cue, all the men stood as well. The closer Vincent came, the more his energy reached out to her. It touched her, filled her in places she’d forgotten were empty. Dangerous memories spilled back. If she knew how, she’d dump his vibrations out of her hidden vessel, turn it over, and sit on it like a metal bucket until it sank into the dirt with the force of her weight. She’d seal her hollow spaces shut and keep him out forever. To do otherwise would only invite death to creep close. Vincent strode toward her. She held her ground and looked him in the eye. “I do not need your help. I am simply the messenger. Here on behalf of the Casteels.” She cleared her throat to try again and turned to the senator. “Senator Rallis, my family requests your assistance.” The senator’s wise gaze locked on Vincent, his expression thoughtful and full of silent words Bronte lacked the power to hear. Curiosity lit the dark depths of his gaze as they landed back on her. Vincent leaned toward her. “And they sent you as their messenger?” His voice was soft, a caress against her skin. “The most vulnerable and weakest of them all, to fight their battles.” “I am not weak.” She risked a quick glance at him. “I have plenty of strength to fight whatever battles

I need to.” She bit her tongue to stop her aggressive tone. Arguing would not help her cause. “Vincent, you are making our guest uncomfortable.” The senator’s tone went quiet. Deadly. The boom was much safer, she realized. “No, I’m not. At least not with my vibes, Granddad.” Vincent’s reply was matter-of-fact. He held all the power between them, and he was going to use it. Running for the door would not help her now. “My mage vibes do not make her uncomfortable.” Her hold on her tongue wasn’t tight enough to stop her gasp. She’d messed up. Goddess, but she’d messed up. She closed her eyes for a moment at the realization. Instead of drinking Vincent in, she should have faked a reaction to his power, imitated the jittery anxiousness Nons felt around a mage who wasn’t suppressing his energy. Maybe that would have saved her. “Vincent. She’s a Non. Of course you’re making her uncomfortable.” The senator’s reprimand was deceptively soft. Bronte stared at Vincent as desperation swirled inside her. “Please. Don’t.” “She’s not a Non.” Vincent’s words shattered her hope of escape.

Syphon’s Song Mayflower Mages Book One Anise Rae Genre: Paranormal Romance Publisher: Lyrical Press/Kensington Date of Publication: March 3, 2014 ISBN: 978-1-61650-211-9 ASIN: B00IPQWVYE Number of pages: 359 Word Count: 98,000 Cover Artist: Renee Rocco Available at Amazon Book Description: Legends say a syphon can drain a mage dry. He’ll brave the danger. Will she? Someone’s playing pranks. The body of the late Casteel patriarch has been stolen and gifted to the family’s enemy, the powerful Rallises. As far as Bronte Casteel is concerned, they can keep it. She hasn’t spoken to her family in thirteen years, not since they exiled her from society for her lack of mage power. But she’s a syphon mage, able drain another mage’s power. Syphons’ destinies are always the same: death by fiery stake. She hides her secret by living among the Nons--powerless humans and the lowest class in the Republic. When her family orders her to go plead for the body’s return, she comes face to face with the one man who knows her secret. Colonel Vincent Rallis isn’t letting his syphon get away this time. Not when she’s under suspicion of bodynapping and aiding anti-mage terrorists. He’ll prove her innocence whether she wants him to or not, and then convince her they belong together...forever. Vincent’s help comes with a steep price: Bronte must reveal her power. The inevitable ensuing witch-hunt and

trial would be bad enough, but even a tough girl might buckle if her prosecutors are her own parents. CONTENT WARNING: Hot, steamy nights with the colonel’s magic touch A Lyrical Press Paranormal Romance

About the Author: Anise Rae grew up among the cornfields and soybeans of Ohio, dreaming of being a ballerina, an astronaut, and a romance writer. Thanks to her soul deep love of chocolate and a lack of natural grace, her ballerina dreams floated away as high as the moon, equidistant with the astronaut aspiration. She stuck with writing. Now transplanted to the south, Anise lives in the suburbs of Atlanta with her kids and a dog gifted with the power of finding dirty socks. Syphon’s Song, a 2012 Maggie Award of Excellence finalist, is the first book in the Mayflower Mages series. Author photo by


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“Your eyes are so lovely; please don’t hide them from me. Don’t be afraid. I would never hurt you.” His sincerity must have been contagious because the words slipped through my lips without permission. “I know you’d never hurt me intentionally. It’s the unintentional consequences I fear.” He brought his other hand up to cup my other cheek and, with my face firmly held he said, “Linden, I’m not fool enough to think that the gods don’t intentionally f**k with us.” His use of that word was unexpected. Always a gentleman, but always something more carnal beneath the surface too. The inconsistency seemed natural. “But if that ever happens, I will spend forever trying to atone. Don’t turn away from me.” He stared at me for a moment and when his face started to move toward mine, I thought for sure he would kiss my lips, but instead he placed a lingering kiss to my forehead and pulled me into a hug. If he felt anything for me other than friendship, that was his moment to prove it. I had my answer. I gave a forced smile and pulled away. “Please, play,” he said while trailing his hand over my back. Facing the piano, with my fingers lingering above the keys, I tried not to allow disappointment to lace my words. “How did you know about the song?” My racing heart slowed as I realized the kiss wouldn’t happen. His response was casual. “I have very keen hearing and you start to hum it every time you walk away from me to return home. Where is the song from?” Strange. Maybe I was louder than I thought. “I don’t know where I learned it. I think I made it up, but it’s hard to know for sure.” “It’s beautiful, please...” He motioned to the piano. He stood and I pressed one key to test to see if it was in tune. Pitch-perfect, of course. I should have expected no less. I stretched to measure the distance to the pedals. After my assessment, I began to play. As I pressed the keys, I tried to forget he was even in the room, but that became impossible as he provided subtle hints as to how I should adjust my posture. He pushed back on my shoulders and lifted my elbows with a light touch. The adjustment made a difference, and in time my composition transitioned to something more graceful. He placed his hands on my shoulders as he stood behind me and whispered, “Now relax, the music is in control. Give in to it. Let it take you, command you, while you find freedom in its control.” His finger made small massaging circles on my neck and shoulders, and the more he touched me, the more at ease I became. I played better than I ever had. He ran his hands up and down my forearms, coaxing the notes from my fingers as he whispered in my ear, “That’s it. You are much more relaxed. Music is energy, Linden. With energy, you must first make yourself an attractive conduit. Energy does not like resistance. The less resistant you are, the more it can take hold, become stronger—make you stronger. Allow it to embody you, become one with you, and embrace its possession.” His breath teased as his words sent waves of electricity through me. I added improvisational parts to the song I had never imagined. I played sequences far beyond my skill level without effort. As I neared the end of the song, the magical feeling broke down, and with it went my newfound ability. It was as if I took a drug to make me a better musician and it had begun to wear off, but I knew it

wasn’t a drug. It was Cyril. As the last notes breathed their final whisper to the air, I heard him say, “Well done! I bet you even surprised yourself.” “How did you do that?” “I didn’t do anything. I simply taught you to sit up and concentrate. Other than that, it was all you. Music can’t possess the unwilling.” I shot him a suspicious glare. “All right...your turn.” I went to get up. “No, please stay. Let me see...I’ll play something you know. How about Beethoven’s Sonata quasi una fantasia? You may know it as the Moonlight Sonata.” I nodded. He could have played Chopsticks and I would have been happy. He began with the solemn phrasing of the piece. Every languid note held so much emotion. My fingers mindlessly stroked the side of his leg in the slow melodic tempo of the first movement. The mournful timbre accented the sadness I felt knowing that every minute I stayed with him, it was going to be much harder to accept I could never have him. I had only heard the first movement of the piece but as the somber melody transitioned into a more energetic strain, I knew it would be an experience I would never forget. His enthusiastic gestures, the bounce of his hair as he pounded out the rapid notes, all added to the look of determination on his face. The notes were saturated in passion, and violence defined him. I watched him with intense concentration and wondered if he brought that same passion to his kisses, his bed, and his love. It would be a miracle if one person could harness him. When he played the last note, his breathing was heavy and a thin film of perspiration coated the skin of his brow and neck. He looked down at the floor and then slowly into my eyes. That instant, the connection formed again. He reached up and brushed the hair from my face and I did the same to him, draping his thick, dark, sweat-moistened locks behind his ear. “That was magnificent. I’ve never...” His hand reached up to cup my face. His thumb caressed my lower lip as I spoke. “Heard...or seen...anything like you. I mean that.” He smiled and continued to outline my lip. “Linden...” he said with a breathy whisper, “there are so many things I want to show you, teach you. I want you to make me a promise.” I answered without hesitation. “Yes.” “The way you are looking at me right now... Please, always look at me this way. Stare into my eyes and see me for who I am and know that there is nothing more than this. When the world calls things into question, you need not question me because I will always be here for you. The comfort I find in your eyes is new and frightening.” I found it difficult to believe anything frightened this man. He cupped my cheek and with tenderness that mirrored his words, he caressed my face and trailed his hand to rest on my chest just below my neck. I wrapped my hand around his wrist, holding him to me. He leaned in, pinning our arms between us, and breathed, “Promise me.” I closed my eyes, reveling in his closeness, his scent, his heat. “OK.” “Good.” He inhaled. “I will make you a promise in return. I cannot bring you into my world as I would like, so I will not ask you to indulge me further. I should let you go, but I’m sorry, I am far too selfish to break all ties. I do promise to always be your friend, your mentor.” Deep down, hopeful he might love me and see me as a woman, I opened my eyes and managed a smile filled with sadness and disappointment. Protégé was the title bestowed upon me, not girlfriend, lover, or wife. I looked away from him to try to pull back the tears that escaped my eyes. “Already breaking your promise?” I looked up and he brushed my tears away with his thumb. “I’m not immune, Linden. I feel it too. I just need to be stronger than this, for you.” He pulled me into his embrace.

His arms were tight around me. He smiled but something sad lingered behind it. “It’s getting late. I should get you home.”

Symphony of Light and Winter Symphony of Light Book One Renea Mason Genre: Paranormal Erotic Romance ISBN: 978-1-940223-10-0 Release Date: 06/21/2013 Word Count: 88,375 Page Count: 389 Blurb One woman. Seven men. All bound by one man’s undying devotion. Fundraiser Linden Hill has a knack for reading people. She always knows which conversations will put a prospect at ease, which drink will loosen a patron’s lips— or his wallet, and how cleavage will make a donor sweeten the deal. She’s even foreseen her dateless weekends four hundred and sixty-four times in a row. But ten years after watching life drain from her former mentor’s and first love’s eyes, her skills for divining the predictable are lost. When Cyril returns, he’s still gorgeous, but this time he’s beyond human, far less dead, and pissed. His lack of memory drives him to desperate acts, and his turbulent re-acquaintance with Linden pulls her into his war with a creature hell-bent on his

destruction. His group of six supernatural men share a tantalizing secret, but despite the hunger, it’s love that leads her to sacrifice everything to save him… Amazon


Etopia Press




About the Author: Renea Mason writes steamy romances to help even out the estrogen to testosterone imbalance caused by living in a house full of men. When she isn’t putting pen to paper crafting sensual stories filled with supernatural lovers, she spends time with her beyond-supportive husband, two wonderful sons and three loving but needy cats. Her debut novel, Symphony of Light and Winter, finished second for Best New Paranormal Series of 2013 in Paranormal Cravings’ Battle of the Books and received a third place award for Best New Paranormal Romance of 2013 in The Paranormal Romance Guild’s Reviewers Choice Awards. Renea is a member of Romance Writers of America, The Paranormal Romance Guild and The Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal subchapter of the Romance Writers of America. She is also a founding member of Coffee Talk Writers and the Coffee Talk website–a site designed to support established writers and foster new talent. symphonyoflightandwinter B00DIMOX2S/

Stitch Witch Creations from Sophie Avette's Sinister Stiches Series Guest-starring Marcella Burnard’s Isa from Nightmare Ink My characters are either naked or dressed to kill. Given they’re all monsters stalking the city of New Gotham’s twisted, cracked, and cobbled streets, the criminal wardrobe is part of the job description. Rockabilly princesses, corpse brides, leather queens…my city is full of them. Where do they get their menacing threads? There is a boutique hiding out between the fractured, narrow store-fronts lining the foggy docks. The shingles are ribbed and black. Washed, peeling paint and displays offer views into wicked leather and lace studded glam. The mannequins are ghoulish beauties stitched together from whatever was left from the last fool to cross one of the sinister witches. Push open its shabby, frosted front door. Tiny white flakes of paint will pepper the wind like spectral dust. The minute you set heel onto waxy polished oak floors and step into the candelabra firelight you know… This is where the magic happens. Welcome to Sinister Stitches “…apparel for a wicked fairy tale.” A spicy trinity of black magic sisters breathe star-dusted dreams to life with their gothic apparel boutique. They are schooled in the old ways of “fabric-bending” by the Needlewitches of old. With this knowledge, they’ve created an entire line of clothing that all share the same basic design element: one-size fits all. Each garment will magically tailor itself to its wearer once worn. There might be some “twirling” required, but a vampire’s steady hand should turn every wardrobe change into a stolen moment. Care to take a peek at what the Sinister Stitches has to offer? Check out some of the questionnaire Marcella Burnard’s Isa from Nightmare Ink was asked to fill out after she wandered into Sinister Stitches.

THE WITCHES WHO STITCH QUESTIONNAIRE Please provide the witches with your name: Isa Romanchzyk Please provide the witches with the following: Hair Color: Black Hair Length: [ ] Short and Sassy, [ ] Medium and Modern, [X] Lush and Long Eye Color: Dark brown/black Skin Tone: [ ] Ghoulish, [ ] Snow White, [X] Cina-baby, [ ] Mochalicious, [ ] Dark Chocolate, [ ] Other:__________ Please provide the witches with your measurements and body-type. a.) Height: 5’7” b.) Body Type: [ ] Skeletal, [x] Lean and Tender, [ ] Lean and Tough, [ ] Ripe and Edible Do you have any extra extremities? Place an “X” to all that apply. [ ] Horns or [ ] Halo [ ] 20 ft. of Hair or More [ ] Gills and Fins or [ ] Hooves [ ] Wings (Span: ) [ ] Tail (How many: ) How many heads do you have? NOT funny. One. Physically. I don’t care what *he* says. I’m still in the driver’s seat. Do you have arms and legs? If so, how many? Yes, of course, but I don’t…*glances down at full body tattoo of winged demon* uhm. Usual number. For the moment. How dead are you? [X] Living, [ ] Undead, [X] Astral Form – extra-planar travel as pertains to the working of magic. Can’t be helped. What are you? (Species/Breed) No one really knows, right? I mean, genetically, we’re told we’re still human. Ish. But the fact that I draw things that come true … suggests more. And this guy? *Gestures to the gleaming emerald eye of her tattoo* He’s complicated. What is the occasion? (Ideas include: Wedding, Funeral, Sabbath, etc. Oh, and seduction is a valid occasion. The more details, the better.)

Apparently, I’m to be used as a ‘key’ to open a door between worlds. I gather this will end in my demise, thus it’s likely to also be a family reunion of sorts. Unless you can do something that would turn away a silver knife blade? Or at worst, something my funeral director can wash the bloodstains from? What’s the occasion setting? (Beach, haunted castle, grand ball, etc.) The rusty, cold hold of a fishing boat/Astral (Otherworld, Dreamtime – whatever you’d like to call it.) Will you be running for your life at some point in the evening?(Helps with shoe selection.) No. I’d like to think so, but no. Chains are likely to figure into the restraint plan. My nemesis seems to have a limited imagination on that front. Will you be set on fire? Better yet, will you be setting other people on fire? How I wish I could set certain people afire. I can guarantee, however, that bolts of magic, including the odd curse, will be flung with malicious intent. Will you be grave-robbing? (Dirt is a dressmaker’s tedium.) No! Desecrate sacred ground?? Is that what you think of me? Is your neck a dinner plate? If the demon sewn to my skin is to be free, he must rip out my throat and take over my body. Life for life. So when we say ‘dinner plate’, think in terms of ‘last supper’. Do you hope to be naked at some point in the evening? (All right, dirty birds. Such questions are actually intended toward the weres and shifters in regards to their transformations.) Not on purpose. Describe your last brush with Death in two sentences. (Helps us plan for the unexpected.) Tortured and starved for six weeks, which is when the Living Tattoo was forced upon me with the intent of stealing my magic and my life. Spider Woman forbade my death. Do you need a secret compartment for weapons, wands, tampons, etc.? No. I have more than enough secrets, thanks. What are your three favorite colors? Black, black, dark gray. What? I grew up in a conservative household. My piercing artist tries to get me to wear other colors. I just don’t see the point.

What two colors rattle your kettle? Light blue, white Please pick a style that you feel embodies you the best. If none apply, feel free to surprise us by providing your own brilliant description in the “other” slot. [ ] Rockabilly Starlet: This is for the spoonfuls of sugar. The good-natured and naughty girl next door types. Candy is the business and fairy tales are ultimate. More often than not, her head is in the clouds and her nose in the book. Our dreamers. [ ] Leather Queen: This is for the warrior princesses. The type of girls who give boys a run for their money and wear tight jeans just watch the little vampires come undone. Hands for fighting and these heels for ass-kickings. Our protectors. [ ] Medieval Mistress: This is for the no-nonsense girls. The ones who know better because they’re ten steps ahead. They’re schemers—they might be shy, or they might not be. More importantly, they’re selective. Our wisdom. [ ] Gothic Dame: This for the mysteries. The ones no one can quite make heads or tails out off. She’s a mixture, a melting pot of sugar and sinister. She might be Rockabilly Starlet one day, or a Medieval Mistress other days. Our sisters. [X] Other: Hard working, barely getting by tattoo artist and extra-planar traveler. Brought up in the Navajo Nation by a trio of elders who taught me healing, chant, and trance work. Other cultures say ‘shaman’. Special consultant to the Seattle Police Department’s Acts of Magic Unit. Who is your favorite fairy tale villain? No favorites. Monsters are real. I’ve known too many of them. Sometimes, I think I may be one. If you could be any fairy tale princess, who would it be? Is there a fairy tale princess of normal? I’d like that. To have people not be afraid of me or the magic. If only for a few minutes. Now, tell us the twit you hate most. So many choices… the one who kidnapped and tattooed me – Daniel. No. The monster tattooed on Daniel. No! My cousin Charlie. Oh yeah. He’s the one. All right. I admit it. If I could desecrate his grave? We’d be designing a very different dress. Anything else you’d like to add… I mentioned the demon tattooed to my hide. He’s sharing my living space – my psyche, my body, fighting me for control. You’d think I’d hate him. I don’t. He’s only looking for freedom. And maybe revenge. Thing is, if I lose control and he wins, people will die. A lot of people. Is it possible to design some kind of warning system into the clothing? While I’m me and throwing sparks of amber magic, the clothes stay one color? But if his midnight dark magic takes over – I don’t know – can the clothes turn into a flashing DANGER sign?

After many barrels of chocolate, a dash of magic, and furious sewing… Sinister Stitches’ Gothic Dame, Madame Mari presents Isa’s Completed Dress “Rebel Angel”

Spanish Jasmine, spectral dust and Bayou willow leaves circle the slender figure shrouded in the midst. Twin viceroy swallowtail wings stretch high over her back and the sweeping evergreen evening frock spun from clover and cannabis pales in comparison to the sheer utter majesty of true court: Welcome to Sinister Stitches, shugah. I’m Madame Mari. This is my little shop of sissorhands. Now then, let’s get with the stitchin’. First, the outfit begins very simple. We’ve spun you a simple tight form-fitting asylum blouse. It’s woven from black sheep wool found right here in New Gotham and outfitted with a coating of specter dust. It should be stain resistant and offer a great deal of protection against things like...well, just about anything really. If it’s moving the speed of a bullet (or faster) it’ll pass right through body without leaving a scratch on your...or the threads.

Gillian the Candy Witch, and my beloved eldest, was in charge of your skirt. The mini-tutu petticoat skirt is fashioned from sable silk spun from black butterfly cocoons and brimstone crepe imported from The Veil. The fabric is light, soft, and slightly crinkled to give you that extra effortless sweet and sour silhouette. Expect two volume adding tiers with ruffled mesh frills at the hems. As far as your query about a “danger sign,” all you need for that is an accessory, dear. Astrid, my daughter, got in touch with her friend, Elsa the Troll, from Bits and Pieces. Together, they scoured the goblin markets in search of just the thing. Pay special close attention to the beaded necklace, dear. While you’re in control, they will appear as mundane Neverland black pearls. In the event all...well, demon should break loose, they will glow white. That way everyone’s kettle is rattled and there’s a chance to save the day in time for tea. We’ve paired the outfit with a pair of merfolk net stockings and my dear pup, Brenda, threw in your knee-high, patent leather hooker boots from Hellish Heels. According to her, one shouldn't stalk around hell on earth in anything else. Here, take your dress box. No, no, it’s on the house, dear. You’ve made an old girl laugh and that’s worth the world to me. Come back and see us for tea, sometime. I’m sure, Brenda, would so love to share a snarky giggle or two. IMPORTANT BULLETINS from THE PIXIES: Fancy a tour of New Gotham?Check out New Gotham’s Survival Guide! It might save your life! (Link: For more information about Sophie Avett’s New Gotham novels and Sinister Stitches series and recent release, ‘Twas the Darkest Night, please check out her website: http:// For more information about Marcella Burnard and Isa’s adventures in Nightmare Ink, please check out her website: http:// Image Credit(s): chaoss Twas the Darkest Night A New Gotham Novel A Sinister Stiches Spin-off Sophie Avett

Genre: Erotic Gothic Paranormal Romance Publisher: Skeleton Key Publishing Date of Publication: March 15, 2014 Number of pages: est. 355 pages Word Count: est. 160, 000 Cover Artist: Elaina, For the Muse Designs Book Description: Remember the story about the troll who lived under the bridge—yes, well, that twit didn't have to pay rent. Owner and operator of Bits and Pieces, and resident expert on charms and glamours, Elsa Karr is a witch with a sour frown and a list of things to do as long as Thor’s hammer. Top of the list is saving her father's shop from ruin. If she isn't trying to claw her way out of debt, she's arguing with her cat, Fenris, or shoveling carts of cake into her gob. She's not interested in romance or the vampire who rents the flat above her shop. All she wants is a little peace and chocolate--fine, all right! All right! The vampire is kind of screw all cute. (Curse him.) The disgraced son and heir of the Wingates House vampire clan and a mad-man to boot, Marshall Ansley spends most of his time working and dodging his mother's phone calls. Marshall is beyond family. He's beyond everyone, actually. Don’t be daft, he especially doesn't do… Christmas. But behold, the plague brings an original flavor of annoyance this year when his boss tasks him with acquiring the account of a recluse fey and her upcoming Gothic clothing boutique, Sinister Stitches. That is the ONLY reason he's bothering with his shrewish landlord. No, that's it. No…really. Fine, if you insist, the witch might be a tad bit...all right, she's adorable. (Damn her.) Scrooge meets Scrooge. Dominant meets Dominant. Tempers…spark. In each other, they may unfold a tale that only comes to pass on the darkest of nights. About the Author: Sophie Avett is kind of a nerd. Like not even one of the cute, hip ones everyone brags about nowadays. More like the socially awkward hippie who eats way too much bread and dreams about being a dragon from behind towers of mythology books. Um...yeah. Picture old, tattered paperbacks and comic books--mostly Batman and Wonder Woman--dwarfing a tiny desk, with just barely enough room for the troll who writes there and the 70 pound hell-hound that insists of laying it's wet nose on top of her bare foot. Granted not the most exciting existence, but she tries to make up for it by writing romances populated with her own peculiar ilk of paranormal beasties. Trolls, wyverns, the obscure Nordic brownie--she likes to keep things interesting. And bloody. (And mostly naked--but, we'll keep that bit between us.) Sophie Avett loves to hear from her readers. (Hi, mom.) So if there's something on your mind, feel free to leave a message after the scream. (Mom, seriously…you can just call me.) Facebook: Post-Its, the Blog: Brimstone Pub, the Blog: Goodreads

Hello, Marcella. Can you tell readers a little bit about yourself and what inspired to write in this particular genre? I’m a geek. Nerd. Dork. However you want to phrase that. I love to read – usually scifi, fantasy, paranormal, urban fantasy – anything with a twist away from day to day reality. I got into that reading habit as a kid when my day to day reality wasn’t all that kind and had little to recommend it from an entertainment standpoint. I always wanted to believe in magic, anyway. Possible personality defect. When Nightmare Ink popped into my head, I didn’t know what it was. I just obediently wrote it down. Now, I do love Urban Fantasy, but I didn’t set out to write one. It just sort of happened while I was too busy getting the story down. What is it about the paranormal, in particular vampires, that fascinates you so much? Heh. I was going to say that Murmur isn’t a vampire – but in a way – he IS. In order for him to live, he has to take the heroine’s life. It was that exchange; she has his life in her hands, he has hers (not to mention her sanity) in his hands. Neither one of them is particularly gentle about it. It made for some lovely conflict. What inspired you to write this book? I have a scrap of paper with a pair of sentences written on it (the lines came from a dream) “You are a work of art. Don’t make me destroy you.” That simmered away in the back of my head, I think, until the characters presented themselves and a couple of scenes. The rest of the book grew out of that. Please tell us about your latest release.

Nightmare Ink is the latest release – available April 15, 2014 (Look! Something to do with that tax refund you’ve already spent!) It’s an Urban Fantasy from Intermix, thus it is available in e-format only. Do you have a special formula for creating characters' names? Do you try to match a name with a certain meaning to attributes of the character or do you search for names popular in certain time periods or regions? Names are a pretty major part of a character for me, so the names have to be right – appropriate to the character before I can progress. I’ve certainly looked for names with specific meanings just to see if something strikes my fancy, but most of the time, I end up looking for sounds. Some characters need names that start with a vowel, others need something harder. Eventually, something whispers a name to me and it’s the right one. I try not to examine that process too closely. Was one of your characters more challenging to write than another? Murmur was difficult. He comes into the world not trusting anyone or anything. Turns out that’s tough on an author. He didn’t trust me, either. Trying to get motivations and reasoning out of him made me want to slam my head repeatedly in a door. Is there a character that you enjoyed writing more than any of the others? Augustus, the heroine’s tripod red heeler. It’s because he’s based on a real dog, Riley, who lived across from me for a couple of years. HUGE personality, way too smart for anyone’s good, and a completely loveable goof. He moved to Norway. I miss him. And his people. Do you have a formula for developing characters? Like do you create a character sketch or list of attributes before you start writing or do you just let the character develop as you write? I’m a character driven writer – this means I have to know a lot about my main characters before I can start a story. I work my way through a set of templates from Break Into Fiction a book and workshop by Mary Buckham and Dianna Love. It gets pretty intense if I dig in far enough. It gives me a clear sense of my character arcs. From there, I can write scenes that challenge the hero and heroine. What is your favorite scene from the book? Could you share a little bit of it, without spoilers of course?

There’s a rescue scene in the latter half of the book that I like very much…but saying anything more than that risks spoilers. I can say the scene is set in one of my favorite places – the Japanese garden at the Washington Park Arboretum. http:// Did you find anything really interesting while researching this or another book? For this book, I got to learn way too much about tattooing. It is not an art for the squeamish. It’s pretty hard to freak me out, but even I had to look away when watching someone injecting permanent tattoo dye into a guy’s eyeball to give him blue ‘stars’ in the white of his eye. O_o What is the most interesting thing you have physically done for book related research purposes? Caving in Belize – the cave was a Mayan sacrificial site and we were only allowed into the top two levels of the cavern where agricultural sacrifices were made. In lower levels of the cave, there were human remains. Only archeologists were allowed into the lower levels, which was just fine with me. I did not want to walk the same, potentially bloody path as the sacrificial victims whose bones rest down there in the dark. Can you tell readers a little bit about the world building in the book/series? How does this world differ from our normal world? Magic works, in Isa’s world. Specifically, someone’s found a way to make tattoos live. If you get Live Ink, you live in symbiosis with your tattoo. The Ink shares your body and your psyche. You heal fast and your life is lengthened. The tattoo also augments some aspect. In Nightmare Ink you see tattoos change people – someone with a fiery temper has that mitigated by the cooling influence of the tattoo he ends up with. With the book being part of a series, are there any character or story arcs, that readers jumping in somewhere other than the first book, need to be aware of? Can these books be read as stand alones? I really want books in any series I write to stand alone. That said, the first book (Nightmare Ink) plays a huge part in understanding where Murmur comes from and how he relates to Isa (the heroine) and the other characters. It will be much easier on a reader to get the books in order. Fortunately, Intermix labeled Nightmare Ink as book 1 in The Living Ink Series. Do any of your characters have similar characteristics of yourself in them and what are they? Always – since I’m the only head and body I can use for reference for feeling and experience. :D That said – Isa has an issue with feeling inadequate. It’s one of the is-

sues I deal with. Other than that, though, she’s really dissimilar. She’s patient. I’m – not. She’s far more fatalistic than I am. She more Zen, maybe. She doesn’t seem to have my neuroses or my food issues. Sigh. Maybe I’m writing my characters as a bit of wish fulfillment. Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? How do you deal with it? Arg. Yes. I handle it with journaling. For me, writer’s block tends to be emotional trash piling up inside. Writing several pages by hand both morning and night clears all of that so I can hear the story again. So far, it’s been really effective. Exercise helps, too. Do you have any weird writing quirks or rituals? Must. Have. Tea. If there’s no tea, there are no words. I ride my bicycle to a local tea shop every morning where I work for several hours each day. They bring me tea and treats while I rack up word count. Do you write in different genres? Yes. I also write science fiction romance Do you find it difficult to write in multiple genres? Not so far. The voice for each is pretty distinct. SFR tends to be more action-oriented for me – a little thriller-y, if I’m doing my job. Urban Fantasy is richer. More detailed and a bit more psychological. When did you consider yourself a writer? That part hasn’t ever been a problem. I’ve been writing to entertain myself since forever. But thinking I might really be an author? I still struggle with that one. Remember what I said about inadequacy issues? Yeah. Here they are. What are your guilty pleasures in life? Watching The Walking Dead. It’s silly. We don’t have a TV because we live on a sailboat. But we got hooked on the show. Every Sunday, my husband and I go hang with friends, potluck supper, and watch the show. I also play World of Warcraft. Still. With these same friends. Other than writing, what are some of your interests, hobbies or passions in life? Sailing, reading, feline rescue, reading tarot (for real and for true).

What was the last amazing book you read? The Hallowed One by Laura Bickle Where is your favorite place to read? Do you have a cozy corner or special reading spot? There’s a spot in the cockpit that I love but I usually have to fight a cat for it. It’s prime feline real estate and I usually lose. What can readers expect next from you? The sequel to Nightmare Ink. The title hasn’t been solidified yet – but that book is out in November. Where can readers find you on the web? Author page on FB: (low-ish traffic as I only post book news here) Alternatively, if you want cat photos, stupid jokes and geekdom just search on Marcella Burnard and friend me if you want. Twitter: @marcellaburnard Would you like to leave readers with a little teaser or excerpt from the book? “Hey, pretty lady. You look lonely,” a smooth, musical voice said as Isa strode toward her shop door. She glanced at the striking young man reclining against the back of the bus shelter that stood in front of the kitchen wares store two doors down. In the glare of the streetlights, the young man, dressed in skintight dark Levi’s, a shirt that outlined every defined muscle, and a beat-up leather jacket, raked Isa with a hungry glance. Had to be one of Patty’s “projects” if he was working her territory. “A couple of Ria’s gang tagged that shelter this morning,” Isa said, trusting he’d been on the streets long enough to know which gang claimed this part of Ballard Avenue. “Smear it and they’ll tag you.” He jerked upright, swearing.

She smiled and reached for the door of Nightmare Ink. “Aw, chica,” he said. “You don’t want to go in there. The owner, she’s a bruja. A witch. People say she’s got a secret room down in the basement. You go in there and part of you dies.” Nightmare Ink Marcella Burnard ISBN: 91101630228 Book Description: With the needle of a tattoo gun, Isa Romanchzyk has the power to create and destroy. In her shop Nightmare Ink, Isa helps those in need by binding the powers embedded in their Live Ink—the magical tattoos that can enhance the life of the wearer, or end it. But binding tattoos has earned Isa the contempt of her fellow artists—including her former lover Daniel. When a friend comes to the shop with a tattoo on the verge of killing him, Isa can’t turn him away. For the first time in years, she works Live Ink into someone’s skin—something she swore she’d never do again. But breaking her vow soon becomes the least of her problems. Isa is horrified to discover her friend’s body in the shop, but the real nightmare begins when she’s abducted and inked against her will. Now, as she seeks retribution from the man who betrayed her, Isa must figure out how to bind her Living Tattoo before it consumes her completely... About the Author: Marcella Burnard graduated from Cornish College of the Arts with a degree in acting. She writes science fiction romance for Berkley Sensation. Her first book, Enemy Within won the Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice award for Best Futuristic of 2010. The second book in the series, Enemy Games, released on May 3, 2011. An erotica novella, Enemy Mine, set in the same world as the novels was released as an especial edition by Berkley was released in April 2012. Emissary, a sword and sorcery short story released in the two volume Thunder on the Battlefield Anthology in the second half of 2013.

Chapter I Charles Amato stared at the enclosed area. His three years of Navy SEAL training and ops could hardly prepare him for what he was witnessing. Charles closed his eyes and shook his head. When he opened them, the impossible scene had not changed. He fought his instincts to run away. He had to take responsibility and do something. Clutching his gun, he did not take it out. The threat wasn't immediate, and he did not want to appear hostile to the alien life forms fenced inside the motor pool storing military vehicles. The alien nearest him was a large, stocky light-blue skinned creature whose spiky head looked oddly small in comparison to its tall, wide frame, which was over three meters in height. Its long tongue darted in and out from its sharp teeth. Four short and stocky legs supported the alien’s hairless body. Its four spindly arms, each with six thin fingers, shot out in all directions. The alien looked like it was jumping rope as it bobbed its head and shifted its weight to each of its four feet. It gazed at Charles, but did not move toward him. The second alien had a tall, angular body with a dark brown face and wide, oval eyes that looked almost human. Its pupils were the size of a quarter. Wiry tendrils just below its nose had the appearance of a long mustache except that the tendrils shifted and moved like appendages. Short, matted hair covered its head. Its mouth was located just above its neck. Two sets of short, mosquitolike wings from its back flapped continuously, cre-

ating a buzzing sound. The second alien stood on an open-air vehicle that resembled a train, except that it hovered in the air and was not supported by tracks. A trail of smoke emanated from the rear of the vehicle. The alien’s upper torso stuck out, and it drove in a circle, not paying any attention to Amato. Charles slowly stepped backward, hardly believing what he was seeing. Perhaps this was a hologram created by a computer wiz on a SEAL team, but these creatures occupied physical space and had mass. Mentally retracing his tracks, he had returned from the base’s infirmary after receiving treatment on his sprained ankle. He had injured it on a jump during HALO training when he had been trying a maneuver while falling through the air. After getting his ankle evaluated and rewrapped, his mind had been locked in on rest and relaxation during the upcoming weekend until he had encountered this situation. First, he had heard a buzzing sound. Then, he had spotted the vehicle moving, before getting a full view of the two aliens. Other than the sprained ankle, Charles felt fine. He was not sick, hallucinating or delirious. He considered his options. If they were hostile, he did not want to attract their attention. Although he was armed, he had no idea of their capabilities and did not want to find out. He looked around, but could not see anyone nearby. He felt alone and isolated, wishing there was an officer to advise him. The two aliens continued to ignore him. How the hell did they get here? Not just to the planet Earth, but within the Navy SEAL base on Coronado Island. They did not have a ship adequate for

transport from a location thousands or millions of miles away. What did they want? They were not wearing any suits, which meant they were capable of breathing the Earth’s air. They probably came from an environment similar to this one. What did it all mean? Were these two a precursor of what was to come or had they arrived here accidentally? The light blue alien chirped something incomprehensible. The second more human-looking alien did not reply. It tilted its head back and forth in a swaying motion. He wanted to call out and announce his presence, but the words stuck in his throat. Charles had to do something. He was not a helpless civilian. He was a member of the most elite naval special warfare unit on the planet. It was time for him to get past his fear and act. The second alien drove its hover-train towards the edge of the fence. The alien shook violently and screeched as its tendrils grabbed the fence. The light blue alien began to jump up and down on its four legs and shrieked in unison with the other alien. “What the hell?” Charles shook his head. He had to get help. *** Navy SEAL Ensign Peter Estabrook sat behind his desk listening to the sob story of First Class SEAL trainee Pappalardo. He had no time for this nonsense. Not everybody was cut out to be in the SEALs. Peter had discovered that firsthand when more than three quarters of his training class dropped out. They only wanted the very best, and not everybody could cut it. He had known many good men who did not make it through training, but to whine and complain on your way out like Pappalardo was pathetic. According to Pappalardo, it was everybody else’s fault but his own. “The instructors aren’t giving me a fair shake, sir,” Pappalardo said. “I mean I could do this stuff. They just aren’t being fair.” Peter tried to hold back his anger. He felt like grabbing the kid by his throat. If Pappalardo couldn’t make it through this stage of the training, there was no way he would make it through Hell Week, where many strong men folded under the pressure. “I can assure you that none of the trainers have treated you unfairly,” Peter said. “We only accept the best and don't make apologies for our high standards. I am sure that there are other careers with-

in the US Navy that would be more suitable for you.” “Hey, I can be a SEAL, sir,” insisted Pappalardo. “I’m better than a lot of these other guys. They ain’t got nothin’ on me.” Peter gritted his teeth. “You have some kind of nerve, Pappalardo. You come into my office making all kinds of demands. I was trying to let you off easy, but you want to push it. Do you have any idea of what it means to be a SEAL? Do you?” Pappalardo stammered but did not reply. “Let me tell you, son, I have served as a Navy SEAL in two wars and more combat missions than I can remember. It means sitting in a lake for hours hoping you don’t get discovered, waiting to ambush your enemy. It means diving off of a plane four miles up in the air and trying to land on a moving target. It means going into enemy territory in the middle of a firefight and rescuing a POW. Do you have any idea what it would be to have an Al Qaeda officer interrogate you? You make me sick. Do the right thing and drop out, because I can assure you that things will get worse, and you'll experience hell unlike anything you've ever known. I'll start the paperwork to get you transferred. Go pack your bags.” Pappalardo started to argue, but Peter ushered him out of his office. He shut the door and returned to his desk. Thinking of Pappalardo made his stomach turn. Being treated like dirt was the norm in the Navy SEAL program. That had been going on since JFK had first commissioned the teams. It was necessary because battlefield conditions were worse than training conditions. In his day, nobody complained to the officers unless they lost a limb. A knock on the door caused Peter to groan. If that was Pappalardo again, he was going to strangle the kid. "Come in." First Class Torpedoman Charles Amato stood at the door. His face was flushed and he was perspiring heavily. He shook as he spoke. “Sir, I have a situation that requires your immediate attention.” Peter sighed. “What’s the problem?” “Sir, I need you to come with me immediately.” Amato’s voice wavered. Peter's face tightened. “Gain control of yourself. What's the problem?” “Sir, I can't even begin to describe what I witnessed by the vehicle storage area. Please follow me.”

“This better be good,” Peter said. “Sir, this is a matter of national security.” Peter put on a light jacket and walked out of the building. His senses were immediately alerted to a change in the air as they walked through the base. It was nothing tangible. It felt like the onset of a major storm, except that the skies were cloudless and it was a perfectly sunny day. The base looked like any ordinary college campuses, save for the drab buildings and lack of color. Amato breathed heavily as they walked. He had known Charles Amato for three years and had always found the kid to be mentally and emotionally stable. He had seen Amato perform quite admirably in training when they went to Nova Scotia in the depths of the Canadian winter. An eerie buzzing noise grew louder. “What’s that?” Amato had a tremor in his voice. “You’ll see.” They turned around the bend and approached the motor pool. When he first saw them, Peter was too stunned to speak. It took him a minute to finally say, “What the hell is this?” “Sir, I have no idea. My guess is that they are alien life forms.” Alien life forms. The words hung in the air as if frozen by liquid nitrogen. Of course they’re alien life forms, dummy, Peter felt like saying. Do they look like they came from the San Diego Zoo? “This is insane,” Peter muttered. The air around him seemed to tighten. “I agree, sir.” Amato approached the fence and looked closely at the alien on top of the vehicle. “They don’t seem to be trying to communicate with us?” Peter stood next to Amato as the two aliens chirped. The large, squatty alien with the eight limbs had a shrill, high-pitched voice, while the alien with the tendrils that resembled a mustache spoke in a flat, monotone voice. “Maybe they don’t know how to communicate with us,” Peter replied in a low voice. “Perhaps they’re as confused about the situation as we are.” The large, light blue alien jumped up and down on its many legs. The earth shook underneath it. It tilted its spiky head and issued a loud cry as its tongue swirled in the air. It then looked at the alien in the vehicle, who appeared to be nodding. After observing for some time, Peter asked, “Amato, have you tried to initiate contact with the alien subjects?”

Amato shook his head. “I didn’t know what to do, sir, so I observed their actions, much like we are doing now. Instead of trying to initiate communication, I went to find you. Should I have tried to talk to them?” Peter shook his head. “What you did was fine.” Peter stepped forward. “I am Ensign Peter Estabrook of the United States Navy. You have landed in Coronado, California at a US naval facility. We would like to help you in any way possible, but we need to know your intentions.” Still inside of his vehicle, the smaller alien approached the fence. He spoke something incomprehensible as his mustache flailed wildly. “I guess we don’t speak the same language,” Peter said. “So what do you think they want?” Peter's face tightened. “How should I know? I'm as lost as you are.” He continued to watch in lurid fascination. “You know what I've been wondering since I got here?” “What's that, sir?” “Why are these two alien creatures staying within the fence? It should not be difficult to leave, especially for the one in the vehicle.” Amato frowned. “I don’t know, sir. Perhaps they feel the barrier is more impenetrable than it actually is.” “If I landed on a foreign planet and found myself in a cage or an enclosed area, I would try to find a way out. Thus far, these two haven’t shown any inclination to escape. “Well, we can’t stand here all day waiting for something to happen. This is going to be big, Amato. Real big.” Peter took out his cell phone and called Lieutenant Mitch Grace. He had more confidence in Mitch than any man alive, but what would Mitch do when he saw these aliens? *** Mitch Grace worked the grill in his kitchen like a seasoned professional, whipping up hash browns, sausage and eggs on his cast-iron skillet. Normally he would not cook such an elaborate breakfast, but this morning he was not dining alone. The scent wafted through the small apartment. Wearing her powder blue bathrobe, Deborah kissed him lightly on the back of his neck. Her long brown hair was still damp from taking a shower. “What did I do to deserve you, Mr. Grace?” She peeked over his

shoulder. “You’re too good to me.” “That’s Lieutenant Grace to you. I’d like to refute your statement, but as the forefather of our great nation once said, I cannot tell a lie.” He turned and gave her a kiss. “Smells great.” “I’m using a special recipe I learned when I was out in Guam, lots of exotic spices. In a few minutes this bountiful feast will be all yours. Well yours and mine.” Mitch lowered the flame on the burner and began setting the table. “In that case, you’ll get nothing. This was a test and you failed miserably.” “What are you going to do, take a stripe away from me?” “I just might,” Mitch replied. “I know people in the Navy.” “Fortunately the rest of the Navy doesn’t take the SEALs seriously. We think you’re a bunch of yahoos.” They sat down to eat on the cozy wooden kitchen table. Mitch savored every bite, much better than anything he had eaten in Afghanistan. It felt strange being home after completing his second tour of duty. He had arrived in San Diego last night. Deborah had picked him up at the airport. They spent so much time away from each other, it was hardly ideal for a successful relationship. Deborah, a naval intelligence officer, had recently spent time in the Persian Gulf. Besides being his significant other, her high level of clearance in the navy allowed her to be privy to his missions. Their time apart had been torture. In the middle of the war zone, no matter how tough things got, thinking of Deborah always pulled him through. Upon his return, all Mitch wanted was a good meal and a good bottle of wine. He and Deborah had gone out to eat at one of their favorite restaurants in Little Italy. It felt so good to be back home, certainly better than wearing heavy gear in sweltering heat. As they were doing dishes, he said, “Maybe we should do it. You know, tie the knot, make it official. I wouldn’t make you change your name if you didn’t want to.” Deborah put down the wet dishrag. “We’ve been down this road before. What kind of marriage can we have if each of us is going to be in Timbuktu for God knows how long? You know I love you. I absolutely do, but being in a relationship with you is trying. There are nights when I can’t sleep because I’m worried sick that some terrorist is going to ignite

a bomb and kill you.” Deborah had been married and divorced once. Her ex-husband was a car salesman who had not been able to handle her being away so often, finding solace with another woman. She had explained to Mitch that she had been young and naïve, thinking her ex-husband would love her enough to stick with her even when her schedule got difficult. To her credit, she made the divorce quick and painless, and moved on with her life. “If that happened would you be any less heartbroken if we weren't married?” “No.” Deborah closed her eyes. “But my idea of getting married would mean to raise a family and have a house with a white picket fence. When I made my career choice, I knew that would be difficult. I’ve already tried once unsuccessfully. If we’re going to be married, I don’t want to be away from you for so long.” “Then I’ll quit.” “I don’t want you to quit. You’re the best of the best. It would be selfish for me to let you quit just so that I could have you at home. What you do is more valuable than anything you could do in the private sector or in another branch of the military.” “And all this time I thought you hated us SEALs. What did you say the first time we met? All we do is smash and bash everything in front of us?” Deborah smiled. “But you do it so well.” “Maybe I don’t have to quit. I just finished my second tour. They won't send me back again unless I petition for a third tour, not to mention the war efforts are winding down. I could become a full-time instructor. If now isn’t a good time to get married, then when is?” Deborah shook her head. “I don’t know.” Mitch sensed he had struck a nerve. “You have to concede that the timing is good.” “You know the statistics. Most SEAL marriages don’t last more than a few years.” “We’ll make it work. I love you.” “Yeah, but who knows what the future will bring?” Deborah asked. Mitch gestured wildly with his hands. “We’ll deal with the future later. Let’s deal with the here and now. So, are we going to do this?” “Maybe.” “Maybe? I just argued a great case, counselor, and all you could give me is a maybe.” Deborah asked questions about the logistics of a wedding, and Mitch had an answer for each of

her concerns. “So is this a proposal?” Mitch pulled out a one carat diamond ring from his pants pocket. Just then his phone rang. Only important calls came in on this cell phone. Mitch felt torn between love and duty. He searched Deborah’s eyes. “Answer it,” she said after the second ring. He answered. For nearly a minute he did not say anything. “Okay…Can you tell me what it is? It’s happening right now…I’ll be there.” Mitch frowned and turned to Deborah. “This isn’t happening the way I planned it.” She chuckled. “Does it ever? So what’s the emergency?” Mitch shrugged. “I don’t know. It was Peter Estabrook. He said that it was an extreme emergency involving national security. Whatever's going on has to be huge. Estabrook sounded…scared.” “Huh. That’s not reassuring.” Deborah’s cell phone rang, and she answered. After thirty seconds she hung up. “Well, it looks like whatever this emergency is, I’m involved too.” “Let’s go to the base. I’ll drive.” He put the diamond ring back in his pocket. It would have to wait. After putting on their uniforms, Mitch and Deborah hardly spoke on the drive to the naval base. Estabrook had not given much detail on the phone, which meant the situation was grave. He put on a news station. The governor of California was giving a speech on his plan to fix California’s economy. As they pulled into the base, he asked Deborah, “Are you ready for this?” “I certainly hope so.”

Reconquest: Mother Earth Carl Alves Genre: Science Fiction Publisher: Montag Press Date of Publication: March 26, 2014 ISBN: 978-1-940233-02-4 ASIN: B00IKYE5WM Number of pages: 304 Word Count: 75,000 Cover Artist: Jeremy Rathbone Amazon


Book Description:

SEAL Mitch Grace was among the first humans to see the aliens when they landed at the naval base where he was stationed, but like the rest of humanity, he was powerless to stop them.

Five years later, Mitch awakens from his coma under the care of an alien physician to find that aliens control the planet. Starting alone, as a one man army, he rallies the surviving humans to build a resistance movement to take the planet back from the alien conquerors. After his capture by the aliens, Mitch is forced into intergalactic slavery to become a gladiator, fighting as the sole representative of the human species. Against all odds and far from home, he lays the plans for the reconquest of his homeland.

Reconquest: Mother Earth is the thrilling combination of Red Dawn, Independence Day, and Gladiator.

About the Author:

Carl went to Boston University majoring in Biomedical Engineering. Carl graduated with a BS degree, and has since worked in the pharmaceutical and medical devices industries. He later graduated from Lehigh University with an MBA degree. His debut novel Two For Eternity was released in 2011 by Weaving Dreams Publishing. His novel Blood Street was released in 2012 by True Grit Publishing. His novel Reconquest: Mother Earth is scheduled to be released in 2014 by Montag Press. His short fiction has appeared in various publications such as Blood Reign Lit, Alien Skin, and Dark Eclipse. He is a member of the Horror Writers Association and has attended the Penn Writers Conference.

You can visit his website at

A French Pirate, a Sunken Treasure and the Knights Templar Susannah Sandlin It’s funny where ideas for books or series originate—for me, it’s usually a progression of thoughts that gradually coalesce rather than a single bolt from the heavens. So when I begin thinking about how the idea behind Lovely, Dark, and Deep came to be, I was able to trace it back to early 18th-century pirate Jean Lafitte, who plied the waters of the Gulf of Mexico and ruled an empire of a thousand piratical types south of New Orleans in the early 1800s. The oh-so-delicious Captain Lafitte is a major character in my urban fantasy series written as Suzanne Johnson, so when I heard last summer about the discovery of the remains of three early shipwrecks in the Gulf of Mexico, I started thinking about what might happen to my undead Jean Lafitte should one of his lost pirate ships be discovered today. (The short answer: he’d want it back, tout de suite.) Next came research into shipwrecks found off the Americas and what might have been aboard them, which started off as a hunt for Lafitte’s lost ships. That, in turn, introduced me to the “Death Coast” of the North Atlantic, and I set my pirate aside (sorry, Jean) and got immersed in the coast of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, where hundreds of ships since the fifteenth century have met their death and only a fraction have been discovered and salvaged. Pirate ships, Norse explorers, French settlers, British warships, World War II supply ships—all met their deaths on the rocky coastline, carrying everything from gold to household goods to—maybe, just maybe—some of the missing lost treasure of the Knights Templar. Nothing stirs a writer’s imagination like Knights Templar and lost treasure, right? Next, my journey took me to study the Templars, much of whose treasure has, indeed, never been found, and to study what was involved in diving off the coast of Capt Breton, specifically around Scatarie Island. Finally, I began looking at other lost historical treasures, and the idea for The Collectors series, and the first book, Lovely, Dark, and Deep, was born. The Collectors is a group of international billionaires, the C7—ruthless, amoral, powerful—who have a secret game: they compete to see who can be first to collect some of the world’s most valuable treasures. In Lovely, Dark, and Deep, a C7 member with ties to the White House stumbles upon a legend that makes him believe the long-lost Ruby Cross of the Knights Templar went down in a seventeenth-century shipwreck off the coast of Cape Breton. He puts the screws to the ancestor of the man who lost it and a washed up, on-the-skids deepwater diver, and gives them thirty days to find and procure it for him—or the people they love will die. For the

C7 member it’s a game. For Gillian, a biologist, and Shane, the diver, it’s a break-neck race to save the people they love and find a way to turn the tables on their tormenters. And, yeah, there’s some love amid the danger—of course! As for Captain Jean Lafitte and his own lost pirate ship? That story’s coming within the year, so stay tuned!

Lovely, Dark, and Deep The Collectors, Book 1 Susannah Sandlin Genre: Romantic Thriller Heat level: moderate; language; violence Publisher: Montlake Romance ASIN: B00H27TJ6U Number of pages: 320 Word Count: 95,000 Get it at Amazon Book Description: From award-winning author Susannah Sandlin comes a heartpounding romantic thriller that pits a quick-witted scientist and a scarred ex–combat diver against a ruthless billionaire treasure hunter with ties to the White House. When biologist Gillian Campbell makes an offhand comment about a family curse during a TV interview, she has no idea what her words will set in motion. Within days, Gillian finds herself at the mercy of a member of the C7, a secretive international group of power brokers with a dangerous game: competing to find the world’s most elusive treasures, no matter the cost, in money or in lives. To save her family, Gillian teams up with Shane Burke, a former elite diver who’s lost his way, navigating the brutal “death coast” of the North Atlantic to find what the collector seeks: the legendary Ruby Cross of the Knights Templars, stolen by Gillian’s ancestor and lost at sea four hundred years ago. Release Info- LOVELY, DARK, AND DEEP is being released in eight multi-chapter weekly episodes through Feb. 18. The current price for the entire eight-episode novel is $1.99 through Feb. 18 and will increase to $3.99 for Kindle afterward. The print and audio editions will be released on May 13, 2014, and will be available at venues other than Amazon.


He wasn’t sure what woke him, but the first thing Shane Burke saw when he cracked open his eyelids was the bottle of Jack Daniel’s, tipped over and resting on its side. He could’ve sworn he finished it off last night but there was at least an inch of rich amber liquid still resting inside. Good. Now he didn’t have to wonder what he’d have for breakfast. The second thing he saw was a great pair of legs. Well, technically, a great pair of ankles above a pair of leather sandals, and then the legs. Obviously, he was starting his Saturday morning with hallucinations. Only one good solution for that. He dangled an arm off the side of his bed and almost had his fingers wrapped around the neck of the bottle when one of the leather sandals kicked his buddy Jack Daniel’s under the bed, clipping his hand in the process. “Ow.” Hallucinations didn’t take his booze and kick him in the knuckles. Ignoring the throbbing in his hand and the stabs of hangover agony behind his eyeballs, Shane rolled onto his back and squinted at the rest of his non-hallucination. Shoulder-length hair that fell in a sheen of dark chestnut brown, fair skin, fierce brown eyes, red lips compressed in a tight line, black skirt and white blouse, big briefcase-style purse. Had he picked her up at Harley’s last night? If so, he had to cut back on the sauce. “Sorry,” he mumbled. “I forgot your name.” Pity, ’cause she was a hot little number, way classier than the regulars at Harley’s. It’s not like he got laid so often that he could afford to forget it when he did. “We haven’t met.” She propped her hands on her hips and muttered something that sounded like, “And you’re supposed to help me?” Help her with what? Wait, maybe she was a charter. Had he chartered The Evangeline out to a tour group or fishing party today? Surely he’d remember if there was money coming in. Color him officially confused. He struggled to a seated position and gave her another look. “What am I supposed to help you with?” She crossed her arms and raked a ball-shriveling gaze the length of his body. “I came here to offer you a job, but I don’t think you’re up to it.” He tugged the sheet up in self-defense. “I’m not at my best. Ever consider making an appointment? Not dropping in at the crack of dawn?” He had no idea what time it was but it couldn’t be that late. “It’s past noon. And I didn’t figure, given your financial situation, that you’d be so picky about what time of day someone offered you money.” She shook her head. “Never mind. This was a mistake.” She banged her head on the low doorway out of the master cabin, which served her right, the sanctimonious shrew.

About the Author: Susannah Sandlin writes paranormal romance and romantic thrillers from Auburn, Alabama, on top of a career in educational publishing that has thus far spanned five states and six universities—including both Alabama and Auburn, which makes her bilingual. She grew up in Winfield, Alabama, but was also a longtime resident of New Orleans, so she has a highly refined sense of the absurd and an ingrained love of SEC football, cheap Mardi Gras trinkets, and fried gator on a stick. She’s the author of the award-winning Penton Legacy paranormal romance series, a spinoff novel, Storm Force, a standalone novelette, Chenoire, and a new romantic thriller series, The Collectors, beginning this month with Lovely, Dark, and Deep. Writing as Suzanne Johnson, she also is the author of the Sentinels of New Orleans urban fantasy series. Her Penton novel, Omega, is currently nominated for a 2013 Reviewer’s Choice Award in Paranormal Romance from RT Book Reviews magazine.

CHAPTER 1 Rachel

A gentle touch rouses me. There is a woman, tall with fair hair and faded blue eyes. I think she’s a nurse. I allow her to inspect my hand where I pulled the IV out. I wake in a colorless room, both the tile floor and the It’s amazing how we trust people in uniform. Inmates walls are white, the glaring lack of color is made noticeable by the sunshine streaming through the bars of wear uniforms. A person walks into your room dressed in an orange jumpsuit with Department of Corrections a small window above my bed. Why am I in on the back, you don’t get friendly. A woman in scrubs a room with bars? An IV pole is pushed walks in and I’m all ready to do anything she asks. She against the bed frame and a tube tethers me to the bag via a catheter imbedded in my left hand. Af- picks up the abandoned IV catheter. ter peeling off the tape, “We inserted that for a purpose,” she scolds. I meekly I gently draw the foreign object from my body. I hate duck my head as she shames me. needles. My eyes shut, and I attempt to remember the “I’m Rachel. Can you tell me how I got here?” last place I was. Nothing. I draw a blank. Why can't I remember? My scalp is tender; I ache all over. Was I The nurse looks at me bewildered. She grabs my chart in a wreck? My entire body feels beaten. Not debilitat- and looks at the last page. Rolling her eyes and scoffing she mutters, “Again? How many times are they going pain, but like the day after a hard workout. ing to start over?” She puts the files back and looks at I catch a deep breath and try to stand. After a few tries, me. “I’m Janice and I’ll be your nurse today.” I succeed on shaky legs and head for the chart dangling at the foot of the bed. Patient name: Rachel Ryan. Age: “What do you mean start over?” 24. Caucasian female. No living relatives. No other She waves a dismissive hand my way. “You’ll have to information is available to help fill in the blanks. talk to the Doctor. Lucky you, we’re headed to him right now.” I flip through the many reports stapled together but can’t make sense of the medical jargon. Janice opens my door and an orderly brings in a wheel I replace the chart with a sigh. The short chair. We pass dozens of numbered doors identical to walk to the door isn’t far, but takes a lot out of mine, each has a short inset window. When we reach me. Locked. I pull on the door a few times, but it still an office door, she leaves me sitting outside next to an won’t budge. overstuffed leather sofa. “Hey! Somebody open the door!” I bang on the door A gaunt man with large horn rimmed glasses steps out with the flat of my hand but and greets me enthusiastically, "Hi Ranobody comes. I feel on the verge of an anxiety attack. chel! How’re you feeling today?" Okay, don't panic. The IV I pulled out must have con- He seems genuine, I’ve no cause to be rude. His oily red hair is unkempt and in need of a trim. Harvey Mortained a sedative because I can barely keep my eyes ris, M.D. is stitched on his rumpled lab coat. open. Back on the bed I lay down and fall asleep. "Fine, I suppose. Sore, my head's throbbing. I

can't remember anything,” I admit. His pleased look dissolves. He takes off his glasses to polish them on his sleeve and responds, "Hmm…that must be bothersome." The words sound guilty. Is he joking? Having no memory is a bit more than bothersome. “The nurse mentioned something about starting over? She said I should talk to you about it.” He averts his eyes. “I really couldn’t say. I’ll speak to her about it.” This is getting weirder by the second. What are they hiding from me? My eyes dart nervously around "Could you tell me where I am?" "You're at the Richland Institute,” Morris offers. "The Richland Institute is a research and education center created to encourage s elect individuals to cultivate their latent potential and further the evolution of the human race." The speech sounds scripted. Evolution? Like monkeys and Darwin? Exasperated, I ask, "What can I do to serve evolution?" "We all perform our part,” he answers cryptically. That’s a bullshit answer. Gonna need more info than that. "Why does my part necessitate bars on my windows and a bolted door?” Hostility creeps into my voice. Clutching the arms on the wheelchair, I try not to lash out at him. God grant me the strength not to yell. Dr. Morris apprehensively shifts from one foot to the other worrying his hands together behind his back. "Miss Ryan you don’t need to get agitated. Today is very busy. We must hasten, or we'll be late." Screw that! I’m not going anywhere with him. “I want to go home. Who do I need to talk to so I can leave?” I ask. “I don’t think that would be wise. You would be leaving against medical advice,” he tells me. “I don’t care! I want out of here now! Give me the papers and I’ll sign them.” I yell at him. He frowns. “After the test we have scheduled for today, I’ll speak to Mr. Richland on your behalf.” I want to get up and walk out but I can’t. My legs are weak. What did they do to me? The test he spoke of, what if it does something worse to me? My fingers nervously pull at the gown over my thighs. He turns me around and heads to the elevator. We get out on the sixth floor and stop outside

a steel door. A bank vault? Guards stand sentry on either side carrying big ass guns. Those guns look like they pack a serious punch. Note to self, don’t get shot. Doctor Morris flashes a security badge and a guard punches in a string of numbers on a console. The keypad chirps and the door opens. With an ominous moan, it hefts its own weight swinging outward. Inside is a tiled chamber similar to the ones in my room, but these are rusty brown instead of a snowy white. Dr. Morris helps me out of the wheelchair and stepping over the large mouth of the door. He leaves me. I jump as the behemoth door seals with a bang, I hear gears pushing locks into place. The motion was a reflex and on my shaky legs almost brought me to my knees. I put a hand against the wall to steady myself. Crouched in the corner is a man. He has an average build, tawny skin and a mane of dark dark hair. If I had to guess, I would say he’s South American. It startles me when he looks at me and cries, "No, not again!" He begins to rock back and forth twisting on his hair. What the hell is wrong with him? Why is he freaking out? Is he afraid of me? Too many questions, I want answers. “Sir, do you know me?” I ask. I take a few steps towards him, which sends him into a panic. He looks ready to climb the walls to escape. Oo-kay. Never mind. I can take a hint. He doesn’t want me anywhere near him. I retreat to the opposite side of the room. Putting my back to the wall, I slide down to sit. Drains are in the floor. Overhead are sprinklers. A window takes up a good portion of one wall; from the ceiling to about waist high. Men dressed in expensive suits assemble on the opposite side. Are they here to watch me shower? Perverts. A voice shatters my thoughts. I look back at the voyeurs. The speaker is an elderly man, with grayish hair cropped fashionably close to his head. A charming smile plays across his lips, his voice is smooth but it makes my skin crawl. "Rachel meet Alonzo”, he points to the man trembling in the corner. “Dr. Morris informs me you misplaced your memory again. My name is Stuart Richland. You haven’t been in this part of the facility before. We call this the testing tank. Here is where we analyze the truth of the phrase

‘survival of the fittest’. Does brawn beat brains? Is the lion truly mightier than the lamb? We want to test survival abilities. It is unfortunate that only one of you will live, but many have died in the pursuit of scientific discovery. You should consider it an honor." I struggle to my feet and cast myself at the viewing window. "Are y ou nuts?! Get me out of here! You can’t do this to me, it’s illegal. It has to be!" No one is disturbed by my pleas. The men talk amongst themselves ignoring me. Mr. Richland crosses his arms over his chest. "The test will begin in five minutes. I advise you to collect yourself." What’s going on? I’m about to be executed and this man wants me to gain my composure! What the hell have I gotten myself into? I glance over at Alonzo. He’s praying. What were we supposed to do? Beat one another to de ath? There is no way I can beat a grown man to death all by myself. I’m 5’7’’ and could stand to lose a little weight, but there is no way I’m going to win a fist fight against a man. Banging on the glass I beg for my life. "Let me out! What am I supposed to do? He’s going to kill me! Please don’t let me die!" Tapping the side of his head with his index finger Richland replies, "Everything you need is in here.'' Smug son of a bitch. Shit. Can I kill someone, even to save my life? My gaze drifts back to my rival. Alonzo is bent over on his hands and knees weeping. He sobs over and over in a strange language. I rub my eyes. Alonzo is blurry. My eyes must be playing tricks on me. A large form is suspended over him. No, the form is part of him. Like an aura wavering out of sync. I blink several times to clear the phantom from my vision. Doesn't help. Alonzo gapes at me with fearful eyes, but the shape that rises out of him is eager. My mind tries to reconcile the insanity going on around me. A computerized voice announces "Testing commences now." Alonzo wails. He contorts his body backwards in an unnatural position that has him arching off the floor. His hands grab the shirt covering his chest as he forcibly rips it from his body. Fingernails rake down his ribs to his stomach taking bands of skin with them. They tear off like wet paper towels. Bones move under muscle.

His nose and mouth elongate and reshape into a muzzle. Rolling over to his belly, Alonzo’s eyes reach mine. The pupils have changed to a burning yellow. Sharp teeth split his lips. Black fur sprouts out from between the mauled tissue. I think I’m gonna puke. In a blur Alonzo springs into motion. His fist catches the right side of my jaw. The force takes me off my feet and drives me backwards into the wall. Tiles come free from the impact. A copper tang fills my mouth. Blood. I spit and watch the crimson stain spread across the floor. I know what discolored the tile. Old blood, lots of it, soaked into the ceramic and grout. Slumped over against the wall I observe Alonzo in awe as he melts away and the phantom emanation takes over. I want to look away, but I can’t. I’m looking at a werewolf. I scream, I can’t stop the sound. Alonzo was medium in both size and stature, but the werewolf is tremendous. Somehow I manage to scramble out of the way before he can descend upon me again. I stand and stare at him. The wolf is enjoying himself. He has been let out of his cage and now he intends to have a little fun. Alonzo has assumed his place as the aura. He’s quiet. The wolf will shield him. What am I supposed to do? How am I expected to win? I must control my fear and find some advantage over the creature before me. I attempt to separate the man and beast. If I can see him as vulnerable I’ll fear him less. After all, furry or not, it is still Alonzo. Remember the man so scared of you he cried, Rachel. Shuddering he drops to one knee. Alonzo and the wolf are stretching apart. The beast is breaking off in one direction, Alonzo the opposite. It looks painful for them, but at the moment I don't much care. Hurts huh? Good. Payback is a bitch named Rachel. I put my hands out in front of me and imagine I’m rending seams. Howls and screeches fill the air. Flesh, muscle, and bone crack and tear. The two beings fall away from each other. I pulled Alonzo’s wolf half into corporeal being. I can’t explain how, it shouldn’t be possible. Blood is spattered along the walls and coats the floor. My hair is matted to my face with tears and blood. I can’t help but find some satisfaction in watching my aggressor come undone. The wolf dies immediately. It needed Alonzo more than Alonzo needed it. A parasite. The weakening man lay at my feet. I’m surprised at the gratitude in

his eyes. How many times did he kill his challenger? How many lives has he been required to take to assure his own survival? By my hand, his wretched existence is done, and he’s grateful. Icy water cascades over me. Numb, I observe the blood fade to pink and escape down the drain. Violent shivers shake my body. I think I may be in shock. The vault door reopens, and two men in hazmat suits come in with a body bag. They put Alonzo’s body inside. His two bodies, as he’s now two separate forms. Together they drag the heavy burden from the room. Another person in hazmat gear advances towards me. Janice. I back away. In her hands, she holds a scrub brush and soap. After harshly removing my hospital gown Janice scrubs me with soap and the brush. She looks disgusted. I’m disgusted, too. Considering where she’s employed, I want to ask her who the real monster is. You can’t scour blood off of people while bodies are carted away and maintain your humanity. I glower at her until she averts her eyes. Heartless bitch. Buck naked in front of an audience is not my idea of fun. God, this is so embarrassing. A clump of Alonzo washes off me. Bile rises in my throat. Janice jumps back as I vomit. When I stop heaving, I take stock of my body and find more pieces of Alonzo. Flesh and hair. What the fuck! I’ve got werewolf in my hair! Get it off, get it off! I wrench the scrub brush out of Janice’s hand and scour my body. When I am finished, my skin has angry red marks from where I rubbed it raw. I’ll never feel clean again. Once I’m freshly dressed in a new hospital gown they take me to a board room, lined with expensive paintings. An elongated glass table is in the center of the room ringed by oversized black leather chairs. Richland convenes at the head of the table. As my chair is wheeled inside, the men from the viewing room, the Armani squad as I nicknamed them, stand up and clap. I’m speechless. I just committed murder. Richland gets up last and says, “Well done Rachel! Quite the performance today.” I can’t restrain my outrage, “Screw you, asshole!” The gentleman on Richland’s right frowns at me. “Apologize to Mr. Richland,” he barks out angrily. Hysterical laughter bubbles up out of me. This whole thing is absurd. Surely, I will wake up any moment. Dr. Morris looks at me concerned. My laughter turns to tears. Overwhelming defeat settles in.

“It’s alright, Mr. Gates.” He smiles at me indulgently, “She’s over excited. Since you’re still suffering memory loss, I’ll give you a swift education. Mr. Lopez was a werewolf. There are countless like him. At this time, we’re uncertain how many species of preternatural beings exist. Vampires, werewolves, exotic cats, even dragons have been witnessed. Creatures you believed only lived in your nightmares are living among us. They lurk in plain sight. We chose you to help us bring down the demons. The doctors injecte d you with a virus to augment your natural psychic gift. On scans, your brain shows improvements, but until today you had yet to manifest anything trans mundane. We call what you achieved today Arcana. With science and psychic sensitives like yourself, we have created a way to fight all that’s corrupt with the world.” His lecture gives me a headache. I rub at the cutting pain behind my eyes and wearily and ask, “Ripping men apart with my mind, is that the extent of what I can expect from Arcana?” I must have lost it. I’m talking like this is normal. Richland has no answers to give. Dr. Morris is more forthcoming. “I’m not certain if we've seen all you can do. By nature, the virus is always mutating. You may never reach full potential, or you could've already topped ou t.” They turned me into a monster. Tears are rolling down my face, but I don’t make a sound. Dr. Morris looks away, and I refuse to make eye contact with anyone else. I hate that they made me cry. Please, let me wake up. “Perhaps Miss Ryan should rest now,” Dr. Morris interjects softly. I don’t want to rest because I am already asleep. This isn’t real. An orderly takes charge of the wheelchair. Down the hallway to my room we pass the same doors as before, but this time I see people looking out from the windows. Every face conveys a story. Fear and anxiety for their future. Curiosity of me. Defeat. How long do you live like this before you accept it? In my room, which is really a cell, a tray is resting on my bed with a ham sandwich, bottled water, and a shiny red apple. My stomach growls with hunger. Can you be hungry in a dream? Who am I kidding, this is no dream. It’s a waking nightmare. At least I’ll get some food in my stomach before I

sleep. The food is tasteless, but I devour every bite. Once my stomach is full, and I set the tray down on the floor, and crawl under the covers. In sleep, I pray I can forget again. In my dreams, I hope I’ll be free. If this is the real world, my dreams have to be better. Futile thoughts. If I can sleep at all, I’ll replay all the horror I’ve been a party to.

Rising Shadows World in Shadows Book One Bridget Blackwood Genre: Paranormal Romance Date of Publication: February 1, 2014 ISBN: 1494891751 ASIN: B00I6U2ARW Number of pages: 107 Word Count: 32,404 Cover Artist: The Killion Group Amazon Nook ITunes Kobo

Book Description:

Rachel Ryan wakes up with no knowledge of where she is or how she got there. Thrown into a world she thought only existed in myths, she finds more questions than answers. Shape shifters, faeries, and vampires hide in plain sight among humans. There’s a war quietly brewing in the shadows. Rachel stands between mankind and those creatures that live in the darkness. Enhanced with power she doesn’t understand, she’ll tip the scales, but who is the real enemy? \

About the Author:

Bridget Blackwood is a hopeless romantic and a fan of happily ever after. She grew up in East Texas where she met and married her high school sweetheart. Together they moved to Southern Illinois, it's been home for over a decade now. Bridget began telling stories at an early age, she writes in selfdefense because the characters in her head are loud and bossy. A social butterfly by nature, Bridget loves to talk and laugh. When she isn't writing she enjoys watching horror movies, playing video games, and not cooking.








Her fingers drifted to her neck to calculate her pulse. It kicked up some, not out of fear, though. The man looked over his shoulder, and their eyes caught. Her fingers still on her throat caught the jump in her heartbeat. “Are you coming, darling?” His voice, warm with promise, carried a hint of laughter. Nora found herself smiling. How strange. She almost never smiled at men, because it could be considered an invitation. Odd that she’d ended up in a relationship with Ogden. Then again, “relationship” might be a misleading term. She ran errands for him while using their association as a shield to keep other men away. Their physical relationship was almost non-existent. Ogden was not a hand-holder or casual kisser. He never pushed her for sex, which made him the ideal pretend boyfriend. The peculiar affiliation kept her safe from the wild emotional swings other women experienced when involved with men. She also believed it erected a barrier around her that other men dared not try to pass. Her interaction with various men had proved that wasn’t always the case. The man regarded her with patient and amused eyes. “Are you holding your head on? Was it about to tumble off your swan-like neck?” He thought he was a funny one. “I was taking my pulse. It’s when you—” “I know what taking a pulse is. That’s one of the reasons I need you here—to help with the sickness.” He held her arm and helped her over a fallen log. Illness she understood. “How can I help?” She considered his hand on her elbow. She had never been one to take assistance, even as a child. As the oldest, she felt the need to do everything on her own. She was a trailblazer of sorts. No one told her she had to, unless you counted her inner voice. No reason she couldn’t have scampered across the log on her own, but she appreciated the gesture. “What’s your name? You keep calling me by my mine, but never mentioned yours.” “My sainted grandmother would have my head if she saw my poor manners.” Holding on to her hand, he led her to two fallen logs bordering the fire. “Your chaise, my lady.” He sat on the other log and used a long-handled spoon to stir the pot suspended over the fire. “I am Clayton McFane. I supposed I expected you to recognize me since we have loved each other for several lifetimes. The first few were a little rocky, but once we got the sense of one another as soul mates, we came together quite well.” A grin brightened his face as his eyes flickered up, demonstrating he was recalling times gone by. Make that, times he thought had gone by. Nora wasn’t all that sure she believed they’d known each other for lifetimes. Still, she’d witnessed both her sister and grandfather transported through time, as easily as if only going to the next city for shopping. Her nana swore she and Grandpa Buell were soul mates. There was also something reassuring about Clayton. Placing her hands on the log, she leaned back and stretched her legs toward the fire. Her cartoon pajama pants looked wildly out of place in the woodland setting. You’d think she would have picked out something more appropriate to wear in her dream.

Clayton ladled the fragrant stew into a bowl. “ Clayton,” she started, earning a smile for using his name. “How come you know me and where I was?” “ Oh, that.” He straightened and walked toward her, carrying the bowl. “Granny McFane claims I have a touch of the fey about me. That’s why I often know things that are going to happen.”

Revelation Pagan Eyes Book Two Rayna Noire Genre: Paranormal YA Book Description: Nora’s impending college graduation is a triumph over the dark incident in her past that changed her life and stopped her best friend’s. Balancing school, work and her demented admirer at the diner is tough. All she has is six more months, but it similar to walking a tightrope blindfolded. Life-like dreams pull her into the 19th century world of Clayton. A man who declares he’s her soul mate. Even though, she’s decided against romance, the young witch finds herself drawn to the Irish healer, even hearing his voice in her head. This would make most people question their sanity. Nora needs to find out if Clayton is real and if she’s crossing over into another world in her sleep. If she is, will she end up stuck in the past? Can magick bring them together? Smashwords

Rayna Noire is an author and a historian. The desire to uncover the truth behind the original fear of witches led her to the surprising discovery that people believed in magick in some form up to 150 years ago. A world that believed the impossible could happen and often did must have been amazing. With this in mind, Ms. Noire taps into this dimension, shapes it into stories about a Pagan family who really isn’t that different from most people. They do go on the occasional time travel adventures and magick happens. Twitter Website Facebook

Spotlight on Stephan Morsk Thank you so much for allowing me to discuss my work and explain a bit about who I am and what my writing is all about. I’m Stephan Morsk and my novella “HE: A Sexual Odyssey” is the topic of this guest blog. My favorite author is Norman Mailer and I suppose I have little in common with him although one reviewer, Feathered Quill said, “When it comes to this novella readers may be reminded of the risk-taker, Norman Mailer...” What attracted me to his writing was the intensity of each sentence, his cognitive style and the supple beauty of his diction. I can only dream of approaching that. I’ve labeled my novella a ‘mysteroticom’, (my own term) meaning simply a mystery with strong comic and erotic features. But I eschew these labels which do more to segregate pejoratively than clarify. Writing is writing and should be judged on its own merits. In “HE” the protagonist, a law student in his thirties has sex with multiple women during the course of his ‘odyssey’. Does this make it erotica? In his book “American Dream” Mailer’s protagonist throws his wife off a balcony then goes downstairs and has anal sex with the maid. Yet his book was never labeled erotica. Is Roth’s “Portnoy’s Complaint” erotica? It wasn’t branded such in its time. I have a copy of Updike’s “Villages” with thirty nudes on the cover. Yet no one would characterize him as an erotic author. I may be digressing a bit, but these issues indemnify themselves when I see certain works identified as ‘erotica’. “HE” is about human relationships in all their grotesque absurdities and the arbitrariness of grisly karma. The protagonist, a uniquely introverted soul, is reaching out to the female gender in hopes of some kind of salvation from the cobweb of his isolation. Each tentative grope is met with a Rubic’s cube of enigma, and solipsistic danger instead of the Hallmark card ‘amor’. The setting is Manhattan. His first paramour, Misha, is the nanny of his ex-boss’ kid. She notices him ogling her and even once sniffing her shirt which she left in the foyer of the ex-boss’ wife. She sends him a letter of contempt yet containing one of her pubic hairs and rubbed with her pheromones which he takes as some kind of quixot-

ic endorsement. Indeed, they end up in a sado-masochistic relationship consisting of her texting the time when she’ll be in a restaurant with her real boyfriend. At some point in the dinner he sneaks into the bathroom (unbeknownst to the boyfriend) and gratifies her sadistic wishes (toe sucking, foot licking, butt kissing desires). He’s overpowered by her beauty which carries a horse dose of humiliation with it. Indeed, much of my writing has been about women’s powerful effect on men, often articulated in the gluteus maximus. “HE” rarely turns down her inviting texts. Yet, the theme of karmic absurdity ranks high in my digressive ramblings. “HE” encounters Eve in a coffee shop, noting her breasts as ‘freaks of nature’ for their gravity defying buoyancy. When she leaves a briefcase under her table and departs he counts his lucky stars as his opening to meet her. Of course he’s unable to board the bus she gets on due to lack of change and he has to reconnect via her cell phone which he finds in the briefcase along with pictures of nude bodies (some her) cut into arbitrary parts. His attempt to relate to her is fraught with surreal obstacles not the least of which is a gun toting thug named Brunner who beats him up over it. Every step of the way his pseudopodia get whacked like a curious gofer sticking its neck out of its dirt hole. His only blessing is his penis which is large enough to please even a mercurial ex-Russian lesbian whore who will identify herself only as Tinkerbell. Even the boss’ ex-wife has designs on his organ, coupled with an utter disinterest in him personally. By now you’ve ‘teased out’ the theme of relationships emblazoned with tornadic dangers, the prison of “HE”’s submission to powerful feminine eros and massive doses of karmic adversity. All of these themes interest me in the context of an obstinate black humor. I’m a mental health professional who has been writing daily for about fifteen years. What I love about writing is the control one has over it, along with the struggle to keep it both entertaining and relevant. If I’m enjoying what I write I believe the reader will do so as well. Contrarily, if I’m not enjoying tapping the keys your eyes will quickly darken. I enjoyed writing “HE: A Sexual Odyssey” and have no doubt you’ll enjoy its libidinous misadventures. Give it a try in softcover or e formats and let me know. You can follow me on my website at I’m also on Facebook, Twitter and a few other places I don’t even know how to access most of the time.

Excerpt: Dear #######' DO NOT BE ALARMED. I would never give away your cloying secrets. But don't kid yourself; I know who you are. You see, I've seen you staring at me in the foyer when I come to take charge of Sisco on Saturday mornings. Your hazel eyeballs have given you away. Don't think I don't get IT. I've noticed how your eyes hover over me, darting around my body like a laser. Picked up on your malingering stare. (I caught you eyeing my butt one day when I left the bathroom door open to tease my hair. Mirrors do reflect in case you didn't know.) When you do acknowledge me (if you do at all), your retinas hover around my chest instead of making eye contact. OMG! Do you think I'm that much of a dumb blonde? Really... So in deference to the fact that you will never, ever have me, I am sending you these tokens of esteemlessness. (1) Since you would no doubt like to run your gruff fingers through my saintly pubic hairs (not to mention your liar's tongue), I have sent you one (enclosed). And (2) since you'd love to use your sizable nose to sniff me in luscious places I have rubbed certain of my pheromones on special spots (UR, LL) so that you may inhale (which is as much as you can ever hope for) (just the thought of you turns my tummy icky) the essence of my sensuality. Enjoy... Yours truly, Misha T, the babe P.S. I'm even hotter than your pathetic, perverted little mind could ever imagine. Trust me. Turning the envelope upside down, something fell out. Hesitant to exhale, lest it vanish, he pulled a small magnifying glass from his desk drawer and examined the specimen. There it was, a curly fury of blackness culled from the mine of her smoky mound.

HE: A Sexual Odyssey Stephan Morsk ASIN: B00E3GZPTI ISBN: 0-7414-8224-X Genre: erotica

Book Description: In HE the unnamed protagonist, a law student, is involved with a series of women who either loathe him, try to poison him, save his life or exploit him sexually. The first is the nanny of his ex boss’ kid. She sends him a hateful letter, enclosing a pubic hair and rubbed with pheromones. After observing a woman in a coffee shop whose breasts are ‘freaks of nature’ she leaves a briefcase and departs. He’s unsuccessful in returning it to her, but this karmic event exposes him to a bevy of dangerous and seductive paramours. Available at Buy Books on the Web and at Amazon Book Trailer:

About the Author: Stephan Morsk is a mental health professional who writes daily. He won a 7th and an 8th place in the Writer’s Digest competition 2001 out of a field of 19,000 writers. He has published a short story and won honorable mentions in other years. His web site offers a new short story each month. He is interested in novellas and recently submitted “Parrot Moon” to the Paris Literary Prize. He’s finished several other short books, part of a four part series including “HE”, “Trashy Novel-A Love Story”, “She” and “I”. He lives in rural Minnesota with his family. Favorite novelist, Normal Mailer. He enjoys exercise and is a reasonable amateur magician.

Coming May 2014 Paranormal Pleasures II By Roxanne Rhoads Award winning author Roxanne Rhoads brings you ten more tales of supernatural seduction featuring demonic desires, wanton witches, voluptuous vampires, and ghosts with grave needs… Four brand new, never published short stories have been combined with six previously published, freshly edited tales to give you a collection of hot paranormal erotica you can really sink your fangs into. Scent of a Vampire Aidan has searched several human lifetimes for his perfect mate. Now that he’s found her, he refuses to let go. He must make Gabrielle see they were destined to be together. Immortal Flame An off duty fire fighter encounters a sexy vampire in what he thought was an abandoned house. The flames that ignite will leave them both scorched…and aching for more. An Unexpected Evening Samuel is a centuries-old vampire who prefers to be a recluse. He is always afraid of losing control and becoming the monster he once was. Falling in love with a young witch has pushed his boundaries and pulled him out of his comfort zone. Katerina always encourages Samuel to be more open, to let loose, and to really "live" instead of only existing in the shadows. One night, he finally grants her wish . . . in ways she never imagined. Underneath the Fangs Samuel is being framed for murder. Katerina knows he is not guilty but she has to convince Samuel that he is not a monster and that he is worthy of her love. Cemetery Seduction

Abby, a half witch, half vampire whose powers go awry in a club, has to run, afraid that the Others, who are policing all human/magick interaction, might put her in jail. She ends up in a cemetery, jumps behind a bush and lands right on top of a very sexy ghost hunter. No Place I'd Rather Be Sonora is torn between a human and a vampire. How can she choose between the man who makes her feel safe and the vampire that makes her blood race? Sonora prays to the Goddess for guidance while harboring secret desires that her broody vampire, Brom, and her brawny human, Avery, can get past their jealousy and be willing to do more than just share the witch in the middle. Can the Goddess grant Sonora's wish, or will she be stuck making an impossible choice? Blood, Lust and Shadows Vampire/succubus hybrid Allana is on the prowl looking for a bloody snack and a sexy energy boost. While strutting her stuff in a dark parking lot she encounters a yummy Latino who makes a lovely meal. She also encounters something else that puts her senses into overdrive. Complete Circle Lissette is a vampire who has lived with her succubus girlfriend, Cassandra, for a long time. She swore off relationships with men after being viciously raped by the vampire hunters who killed the love of her life and left her for dead. Lissette and Cassandra only use men to get what they need, blood for Lissette and sexual energy for Cassandra. They are completely satisfied with their lives- until a mysterious stranger comes along. For the first time in centuries Lissette wants a man. Why is she so drawn to him? What is he? Much more than a mere mortal, Gabriel has been searching for Lissette and Cassandra for a very long time. They have what he needs, what no one else can give him. But will they be willing to share? A Package Deal Chloe needs to get out of the city- fast. So she buys an old farmhouse out in the middle of nowhere- with one stipulation. The caretaker gets to stay. She readily agrees thinking it’s an old man that won’t give her any trouble.

Ash is definitely not what she expected. My Demon Valentine Elita wants to give her demon boyfriend a Valentine’s Day to remember. Connor was built for giving pleasure but Elita wants to turn the tables on that. This time the pleasure will be all his. About the Author: Story strumpet, tome loving tart, eccentric night owl...these words describe book publicist and erotic romance author Roxanne Rhoads. When not fulfilling one the many roles being a wife and mother of three require, Roxanne's world revolves around words...reading them, writing them, editing them, and talking about them. In addition to writing her own stories she loves to read, promote and review what others write. Roxanne is the owner of Bewitching Book Tours and operates Fang-tastic Books, a book blog dedicated to paranormal and urban fantasy books. When not reading, writing, or promoting Roxanne loves to hang out with her family, craft, garden and search for unique vintage finds. Visit her online Author blog Book Blog Bewitching Book Tours Facebook Twitter @RoxanneRhoads Roxanne can also be found on Linked In, Goodreads and Google+

April Issue of Bewitching Book Tours MagazineApril Issue of Bewitching Book Tours Magazine  

The latest issue of Bewitching Book Tours Magazine features Nightmare Ink by Marcella Burnard- read an interview with Marcella and with her...

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